Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer paid “lip service” to a Yahoo! deal and cleverly set the stage for acquiring Facebook, during his keynote at the Digital Hollywood Media Summit.
Yahoo!’s stock price shot up on the news of his comments, but I think the press and the markets are missing the big picture: Microsoft’s is using the “potential Yahoo! deal” as a red herring with investors. Ballmer is using Yahoo! to convince the market that Microsoft needs to buy Facebook to compete with Google, and to set a price floor of 50 billion for the acquisition. Microsoft may be facing a situation where Facebook usage grows so fast that its costs skyrocket, creating a cash crunch, and in this difficult fundraising environment it’s best bet is just to buy Facebook.