Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was in New York for an on-stage interview with BusinessWeek editor-in-chief Stephen Alder as part of the McGraw-Hill Media Summit today. He made some interesting comments on Yahoo, Apple, a potential Sun-IBM tie up. But there was no fundamental change in his position. That didn’t stop the Web-cast interview from making headlines, which may have buoyed Yahoo’s shares (Microsoft was up a bit, too) against a day of measured decline wrapping up on Wall Street. At the close Microsoft: Up 18 cents, 1 percent, to $17.14. Yahoo: Up 32 cents, 2.4 percent, to $13.74. Nasdaq: Down 0.52 percent. Dow: Down 1.2 percent.
Here’s a summary of his comments:
On Yahoo: Ballmer has had only one phone call so far with Yahoo’s new CEO Carol Bartz (who today stepped down from the board of Intel). He “sees a real opportunity for a deal” and “a fairly compelling set of economics that underpin a search partnership.” “When [Bartz] is ready, we will have a discussion.” Full story and a video excerpt at BusinessWeek.
On Apple’s market momentum: “Apple gained about one point, but now I think the tide has really turned back the other direction. The economy is helpful. Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment — same piece of hardware — paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that’s a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be.” Via TechFlash.
His view of another potential tech mega-merger, IBM’s reported interest in buying Sun Microsystems: He “didn’t exactly get it, but it doesn’t surprise me… You pick up a lot of stuff when you buy Sun.” He would “relish” the year of it could take the two competitors to digest a merger.
Ballmer was queried on the street outside the McGraw-Hill conference about a buy of The New York Times. “No. Not ‘no comment.’ No.”
Peter Kafka has a blow-by-blow of the interview here.