When I caught up with him earlier today, Yahoo’s new CFO, Tim Morse, said he’s certainly open to reshuffling the company’s portfolio of businesses in ways that help it make more money.

He was responding to a question about talks with Microsoft about a search partnership – though, of course, he wouldn’t comment directly on the negotiations themselves.

On the surface, it certainly looks like Yahoo could do with some help with search. Its search revenues, just released, took a tumble this quarter, even as the volume of queries from users held up. Google, which reported numbers last week, did much better. Read more

Microsoft, Yahoo and RealNetworks were hit this week with a copyright infringement suit filed on behalf of the composers of 950 songs offered by the companies through on-demand streaming or downloads that last only for the duration of a subscription.
While the amount of damages available under the law if the composers win is very large—as much as $150,000 per violation deemed to be “willful”—a more likely outcome is a settlement for less than the penny-per-play right recently established for streaming royalties.
The details of the case show why lawyers are among the precious few groups of people earning money in the music business these days. Read more

  • The switch-off of analogue television broadcasts due to take place across the US on Friday has done little to boost pay-TV subscriptions and could result in weeks of confusion for the millions of non-digital households facing blank screens.
  • The fight between Microsoft and the European Union over how to bring greater competition to the internet browser market erupted anew late yesterday as the software company sought to preempt stringent anti-trust action being planned by Brussels.

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  • If Carol Bartz is trying to cozy up to Microsoft, she certainly wasn’t showing it on Wednesday. Speaking at a Bank of America investment conference, the Yahoo CEO dismissed the new Bing “decision engine” with faint praise and predicted that it would have no impact on Microsoft’s status as an also-ran in the search business. She also suggested that some estimates of the cost-savings from a search pact with Microsoft had been overstated, and a deal would probably save Yahoo around $500m.
  • Google and Yahoo confirmed that they were among a number of tech companies to have received information requests from the Department of Justice about hiring practices. Following the DoJ’s decision to look into possible collusion arising from overlapping board seats between Google and Apple, the regulatory review was another sign that Washington’s new trust-busters are taking unusual approaches in their scrutiny of the tech industry.

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  • A Yahoo / Microsoft deal could still be struck if it involved “a boatload of money.” That was the word from Carol Bartz, Yahoo’s chief executive, who said her company is no longer in serious talks with Microsoft over a deal to combine their search efforts. But she acknowledged that negotiations between the two companies were continuing “a little bit”.
  • Time Warner is close to a decision to spin off all of its AOL internet business, according to three people in contact with the company. Although a decision has not yet been finalised, executives prefer spinning off the whole division rather than a part. Over the past year, Time Warner has considered spinning off either its advertising-driven “audience business” or its legacy dial-up internet business, they say.

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Joseph Menn, San Francisco-based technology correspondent, reports from AllThingsD, the annual tech conference put on by News Corp in Carlsbad, California:

Yahoo’s Carol Bartz, who took over as CEO in January, impressed a tough crowd, getting more sustained applause after her onstage interview than the two young men who run yesterday’s New New Thing, Twitter.

Bartz came across as sensible and plain spoken, the logical sort of manager to straighten out an inherited organisation chart that appeared made of spaghetti. Read more

Internal routing glitches slowed down or even stopped Google’s searches and other applications for 14 per cent of the internet behemoth’s user base for about an hour Thursday.

“An error in one of our systems caused us to direct some of our web traffic through Asia, which created a traffic jam,” a company executive blogged several hours after the problems began at 7:48 a.m. Pacific time. Read more

  • Three months into her stint at the head of Yahoo, Carol Bartz is seeking buyers for the HotJobs employment site. Other ancillary businesses in Yahoo’s portfolio could also be getting prepared for disposal.
  • Twitter is benefiting from all that attention. Visitors to surged 131 per cent in March to 9.3m, suggesting that more than being just a fad, Twitter could in fact be going mainstream.

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  • Ebay announced plans to spin off Skype, its internet phone service, after talks to sell Skype back to its founders collapsed. Skype, purchased for $3.1bn in 2005, was meant to help buyers and sellers connect on eBay’s core e-commerce site. But there has been no synergy between the companies, and eBay chief executive John Donahoe has faced increasing pressure to sell Skype. The plan was announced one day after eBay sold StumbleUpon back to its founders.
  • Intel said the PC market has bottomed out, but offered few signs that a recovery from recent drastic sales declines was close at hand. Revenues for the three months through March slumped to $7.1bn, or 26 per cent lower than a year before, while net income fell by 55 per cent to $647m.

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  • Steve Ballmer is still hopeful. The Microsoft CEO said he had not talked to Yahoo‘s Carol Bartz since a preliminary conversation when she took over, but that he still believed an internet search deal between the two companies would come. Meanwhile, despite news of acquisition talks between IBM and Sun, he predicted that the slumping stock market would make large deals harder to do.
  • Trying to escape from the shadow of Amazon‘s Kindle, Sony announced an arrangement with Google to bring 500,000 out-of-copyright books to its own electronic reader. That makes Sony’s virtual book store more than twice as big as Amazon’s – at least for now.

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Despite being invited, there was no one from the cable industry represented on the TV of Tomorrow Show’s Over The Top panel this week – probably because they were outside guarding their lunch, which the panelists seemed bent on eating.

Over The Top refers to a new range of internet-based entertainment and information services being fed into televisions that vault over the top of services being provided by the established cable and satellite players in the US. Read more

  • A judge approved Yahoo‘s plan to change a controversial severance plan that would have added to the cost any acquirer would face to buy the company. Yahoo’s shares rose 4 per cent, making it one of the few companies to gain on the day – though Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has said that he would not consider a full takeover.
  • Apple‘s shares took a hit after a JP Morgan analyst warned that wilting consumer demand was starting to eat deeper into second quarter sales. Among other things, JP Morgan lopped 11 per cent off its forecast for iPhone shipments and 8 per cent off its Mac shipment forecast.

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Carol Bartz, Yahoo’s new chief executive,  says she has instituted a “wall of shame” for products that are not making the grade.

Ms Bartz was displaying her usual frankness, in an interview at the Morgan Stanley Technology Conference in San Francisco. She said she was looking at whether to fix or sell those parts of Yahoo with which the company was not happy and had been placed on her wall. Read more

  • After yet another privacy row, Facebook rebuffed the critics by essentially opening up its terms of service to user input. Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg reiterated that “Facebook does not own users’ content.”

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Carol Bartz’s first blog post announcing a new management structure for Yahoo was missing any actual details of the changes, but the company has now been briefing on what the new CEO has in mind.

Yahoo is combining its Tech and Product groups into a single organisation called, rather unimaginatively, Products. Ari Balogh, the chief technology officer who joined from Verisign only a year ago, is the coming man who has been put in charge. Read more

  • Microsoft filed a suit of its own, alleging that in-car navigation system maker Tom Tom is violating eight of its patents, including three relating to Tom Tom’s use of open-source operating system Linux. This is believed to be the first time Microsoft has filed suit over Linux, which it has repeatedly said violates its patents.

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Carol Bartz (pic from Yahoo Anecdotal blog)Carol Bartz has just finished her first conference call as Yahoo’s new chief executive. The 60-year-old former Autodesk CEO made a debut that was Sarah Palin-like in its feistiness with comments to analysts such as wanting Yahoo to “kick butt” and a strident appeal for everyone to “give this company some friggin’ breathing room.”

It sounds like Yahoo employees should belt up for an interesting ride with the no-nonsense software veteran. Read more