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Microsoft Office politics to bring adCenter and Yahoo! together?

Microsoft’s adCenter Labs has been turning heads recently. But the quality and the sophistication of their search marketing tools casts a long shadow over their less than stellar advertising presence — and then there are those rumors of Yahoo! being bought out by none other than Microsoft…

Microsoft’s adCenter Labs first came to my attention about a month ago. I’m not into search advertising in a big way, just enough to keep an eye on what’s hot and what’s not for the few clients I have running internet advertising campaigns.

What I saw from Microsoft told me one thing — right now they’re hot! But what I cannot fathom is the amount of effort being heaped into a set of advertising services that are massively over-powered for such an under-nourished advertising platform like adCenter:

“While advertisers have complained of the lack of traffic, and even the lack of relevancy in search results, one place where Microsoft has emerged strongly is the area of advertiser tools.”

Then I heard that dull noise in my head, the sound of the rumor mill being ground yet again, only this time, it’s the rumor of Yahoo! being bought out by Microsoft:

“Microsoft has been in talks with Yahoo! about potentially acquiring a major portion of the company, according to a report published Wednesday … Microsoft executives hope that Yahoo’s strength in search and advertising categories would give the company a stronger foothold on the Web…”

Microsoft adCenter + Yahoo! = Google killer?

If you choose to dignify this rumour for a moment, the more those formidable experiments coming out of Microsoft’s adCenter Labs look like they’re tools being laid out in preparation of a switch to a different kind of advertising engine.

Of course, there was also the rumor of Yahoo! being bought out by Google, the fit and overlap would be more seamless, given their culture compatibility. I doubt any business that’s absorbed into the Microsoft collective fits like hand in glove, but many have been bought and many more will be bought.

“One tool that will come out of adCenter Labs and into production next month is the adCenter Add-in for Excel 2007. The add-in lets users conduct keyword research and plan keyword strategy from within an Excel spreadsheet, using attributes like relevance, historical cost information and projected volume.”

Which is pretty powerful stuff, clearly demonstrating how Microsoft can bring their Office applications to the table very quickly and very effectively.

“Anything they do using Microsoft products is very smart, and can put Google in its place,” said Frank Watson, SEM director for Forex Capital Markets.

However, it’s not like Google isn’t without their own spreadsheet smarts, though not on the scale as Microsoft:

“Will Google Spreadsheets ever have advanced features? … It will never be a heavy duty analytics program because that would be too heavy and bulky for the average user.”

So while Google is left to build applications around their AdWords advertising platform, hoping to make the process as seamless as possible, Microsoft ties existing applications together, building on their strengths with familiarity, skipping lots of user testing in the process.

I have no idea what the internals of Yahoo! looks like — whether they’re running some Linux distribution or Microsoft Windows. In the end, it’s just technology, so that’s not an issue.

Looking ahead, if Yahoo! were to fall into the arms of Microsoft, between them, the combined entity would have a much greater chance of catching Google on several fronts, especially with Yahoo! rolling out neat new social networking applications and teaming up with Microsoft arch-rival Adobe to embed Yahoo! adverts into PDF files, among other things.

Microsoft might not make a great advert for search marketing, but with a strong Yahoo! and a firm hand to the wheel, they might just grind this rumor mill full circle, giving Google a run for their marketing as well as their money…

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

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