How much worse can things get for Microsoft? After having almost certainly begun the DoubleClick bidding, thus putting the online ad company in play, Microsoft has seemingly been outbid — again — by Google.
Some seemingly think the price is vertigo-inducing, working out to something like 30-times DoubleClick’s $100-million in 2006 ad placement revenues, or 12-times this year’s forecast ad revenues of $230m or so. Yoicks! Can you justify that price based on economics? Some people will try, and that is always good fun; others will go on endlessly about the bubble-ish price. Both sides are wasting their time because the more interesting rationale is mostly elsewhere.
To borrow a phrase from Microsoft’s past, this is a brazen attempt to cut off Microsoft’s future air supply. The latter company is losing share in search, failing at ad placement, trying to find a new leg to growth, and generally floundering expensively in these crucial new fast-growing markets. What better way and time for bid-’em-up Brin to stick the knife in deeper every time Microsoft spots a possible life raft than for Google to buy the target acquisition company — like DoubleClick — out from under Microsoft.
This was, in other words, a strategic and offensive buy, not a financial one, even if you can make a financial quasi-justification for the price. Google is playing very hard ball with Microsoft, deploying brutal tactics right out of the Redmond playbook, circa 1995. Call it $2-billion for DoubleClick’s revenues and customer list, plus another $1-billion for a pinched air tube to Microsoft.
As a a related aside, this buy pretty much guarantees that Yahoo will sooner rather than later be in play, perhaps in the next two quarters, and I can’t wait to see what happens.