Microsoft (MSFT) recently made Bing.com available to the masses. I personally love it...it will be my number 2 search engine after Duperoo.com (my own search engine that is currently being redesigned).
I am about to propose that if Microsoft gave me $5 billion from its war chest, I could make its online venture be positioned better and maybe even profitable.
Here's my fix.
($50 Million) Take your 5 smartest guys in search, lock them in a room and an account with $50 million. Tell them they couldn't come out till they had a competitor to Adsense. This would give everyday webpreneurs the ability to show Microsoft ads on their sites and earn a portion of the profit. If Microsoft could only get a portion of Google's users, that would be considered a win. And Microsoft would be serving up hundreds of thousands more ads per day!
($100 Million) Buy Marchex Inc. (MCHX). This site operates a hefty online presence and is trading at a 75% discount from a year ago. Snap it up - it's cheap and increases your ad serving abilities.
($10 Million) Merely a rounding error for Microsoft, but I believe buying Miva (MIVA) would increase its advertiser base and the number of ads shown. It would be nice to also use its online properties to increase traffic.
($3 Billion) Buy Interactive Corp. (IACI). This company is not doing well in search but it is doing great in running its other online properties like evite.com, green.com, gifts.com, chemistry.com and match.com to name a few. Microsoft would gain an instant 2% in market share for search but it would get an impressive portfolio of online businesses that ARE profitable!
($18 Million) Purchase Looksmart (LOOK). Again, it is a small blip on Microsoft's books, but again, it comes with a list of advertisers and partnerships that Microsoft could leverage. It should wait to purchase Looksmart till December, because that is when It loses a partnership with IAC.
($70 Million) TheStreet.com (TSCM) - yes, buy it. This would be great to help push software purchases of Microsoft Money. It would also take a swipe at Yahoo Finance which is one of the most preferred finance sites. Bank and finance ads pay a premium for placement. You also get a small portfolio of great domains/sites as well as a large advertising company called promotions.com.
($1.1 Billion) Buy ValueClick (VCLK). This company was nearly bought a few years ago but for a much higher price. Microsoft went with aQuantive instead for $6 Billion. Microsoft could use the 15,000 US sites and 5,000 global sites to sell ads on! It has a hefty global reach.
($250 Million) Buy Adbrite.com. This site already helps advertisers show ads on over 100K websites, including some really well known sites. Microsoft could be to ads what eBay (EBAY) is to unique junk. "The largest online ad marketplace"
So far I have spent about $4.6 Billion, that leaves me with $400 million to play with.
Microsoft is the largest online retailer. But that is not why I want to see a partnership - rather it is because of cloud computing.
Amazon (AMZN) is the leader of in cloud computing, and a Microsoft and Amazon partnership would be unstoppable. You could search on bing.com and see a link to related products on Amazon. You then could sign up for future cloud computing subscriptions through Amazon but for Microsoft products, i.e. Office.
I also want to see a seperate building for online services. I want Microsoft's search and online business to be run like a seperate entity but still under the Microsoft umbrella.
There you have it. My $5 Billion duct tape fix for Microsoft. It would make the company a powerhouse in online advertising and might be enough to make a dramatic shift in online market share. It currently has less then 10%
Disclosure: I currently own MSFT and TSCM.