Why Microsoft wanted Yahoo

From the New York Times

It’s no secret that Microsoft’s online businesses have failed to gain leading market positions. But what is not widely appreciated, perhaps, is that the company’s online initiatives have lately been doing worse than ever.

The last year when Microsoft made a profit in its online services business was the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2005. Its MSN unit used to do a nicely profitable business providing dial-up Internet access to subscribers. When its users began to switch to broadband services provided by others, however, the earnings disappeared. Microsoft’s Web sites brought in a trickle of advertising revenue, which did not grow fast enough to offset the disappearance of the narrowband access business. AOL suffered in similar fashion.

In the 2006 fiscal year, Microsoft’s online services produced a $74 million loss after the previous year’s profit of $402 million. Since then, the numbers have become uglier, as Microsoft’s online segment has added employees and absorbed growing sales and marketing expenses. In the 2007 fiscal year, the online businesses lost $732 million. In the next nine months, through March 31 this year, they recorded a loss of $745 million, almost double the amount in the period a year earlier. With $2.39 billion in revenue for the nine months, the online segment represents only 5 percent of the company’s total revenue…