Microsoft Ga-Ga Over Google?

Are Microsoft’s recent moves toward developing its own search technology merely plan B? Could be.

According to a report in this morning’s New York Times, the software giant recently approached search giant Google about a partnership or buyout, even as that company prepares for an initial public offering early next year.

Neither company will comment on the report.

The talks occurred during the last two months, but didn’t get far, according to the newspaper’s sources.

Google, after years of IPO ambivalence, now appears committed to going public. The Silicon Valley firm is reportedly vetting investment bankers that will ultimately prepare the necessary regulatory filings.

Morgan Stanley has been mentioned as the frontrunner for the much-anticpated offering, although it’s not uncommon for more than one investment bank to handle an issue of this size.

Industry watchers expect it to be one of the most successful technology issues in years. Some believe it could fetch between $15 billion and $20 billion and serve as the spark needed to reignite the IT IPO market.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is looking to revitalize its search efforts to make MSN, as well as in other divisions, more competitive and profitable.

In August, Microsoft dumped LookSmart and looked at building its own search engine to rival Google. In the interim, Overture is providing paid search listings for MSN’s portal until 2005.

The company reportedly hired Paul Ryan, Overture’s former CTO, to lead its new search effort. The market for paid ads has exploded in the last year and Microsoft, always looking for ways to diversify and increase its revenues, wants a piece of the growing pie.

Although Microsoft appears to have failed in its pitch, it may still pursue a link with Google in the future, the New York Times said.

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