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Is an Ask-Microsoft Partnership on the Horizon?

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Ask.com and parent IAC have been cozying up to Microsoft lately, leading to the question of what will become of the current 5-year-old partnership Ask.com has with Google once it comes up for renewal at the end of the year.

The most recent tie-up only unofficially involves Microsoft and Google. It's a deal that IAC made with aQuantive to serve ads on several of its properties, leaving DoubleClick the dust. For those of you confused about the Microsoft-Google angle, remember that Microsoft is in the process of acquiring aQuantive, and Google is in the midst of acquiring DoubleClick. Hence, IAC left future Google for future Microsoft.

Last month, Microsoft's Office Live added Ask Sponsored Listings to its adManager service. A week later, Microsoft and Ask teamed up to present a united front in the fight for user privacy, intimating at the same time that Google was not as concerned with privacy as they are. And of course, the two are linked by the common bonds of Steve Berkowitz, who left Ask.com in 2006 to head Microsoft's search efforts.

IAC's Barry Diller was rumored to be considering a change of ad partner when the original deal expired in 2005, but a 2-year extension was agreed upon by both parties. Diller has been coy lately when asked about future plans. During an investor call last week, Diller said:

As it relates to building our very long association with Google which expires on December 31, we are in a position we had hoped we would be when we originally got into this and purchased this Ask company, which is that we have interesting discussions from the three ad networks. That interest level is good enough for us to believe that whatever happens with this we're going to be in a very good position in ‘08 for our ad businesses.

Ask has also been hard at work improving its own ad capabilities. It expanded its Ask Sponsored Listings product last fall, and is in the process of launching a contextual ad network across its own IAC-owned sites and third-party sites.

Think these clues are leading up to an Ask.com-Microsoft partnership? Share your thoughts in the SEW Forums.


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