Microsoft built its business selling shrink-wrapped boxes of software for desktop computers. Now it’s shifting more of its focus to the Web, where rivals such as Google (GOOG) already distribute word-processing software and other tools that compete with Microsoft products. In many cases, these tools are available for free to users who view online ads.
In addition, Microsoft hopes to grab more of the fast-growing online advertising market by investing directly in content, from stories and video on MSN to online games played on the Xbox console.
People close to the company say Microsoft execs have an increasingly good relationship with Time Warner CEO Dick Parsons, the AOL-Google deal notwithstanding. It might even make sense for Microsoft to use some of its huge cash pile to make an investment in Time Warner, just as it invested $1 billion in Comcast (CMCSA) back in 1997.
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