Lost amid all the hoopla of the on-again-off-again negotiations between Microsoft and Yahoo is a third player, AOL, which, like Yahoo, is a struggling one-time Internet powerhouse. AOL parent Time Warner has engaged in separate discussions about a linkup with either Microsoft or Yahoo. And they'd like to get a deal done before Yahoo's August 1 shareholder meeting, at which time that company's fate could be decided.
According to a Reuters report, Time Warner is attempting to sell or merge AOL with either Microsoft or Yahoo. This isn't the first time this year Time Warner has discussed various link ups with both companies, but AOL had been largely forgotten in recent weeks because of ongoing drama in the Microsoft/Yahoo saga.
The potential deals are a bit different. If Time Warner is able to reach an agreement with Microsoft, it would likely be an outright sale of AOL to the software giant. If Yahoo emerges as the partner of choice, AOL and Yahoo would likely merge, with Time Warner taking a minority stake in the combined company.
In the meantime, Time Warner is busy selling off AOL's ISP business in order to focus on online content, applications and advertising. And while the addition of this business wouldn't mean a dramatic jump for Microsoft along the lines of a Yahoo merger/buyout, it would at least be an improvement: Since first announcing its intention to purchase Yahoo months ago, Microsoft's public posturing over its future online has grown worrying to shareholders. Clearly, the software giant needs to complete some reasonably big deal soon to stave off future turmoil.