Can Facebook Succeed Where Microsoft Failed?

Stocks are up this morning, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) and the broader S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) up 0.4% and 0.2%, respectively, as of 10:10 a.m. EST.

Fiscal-cliff comic relief
With the focus in Washington D.C. on budget-cutting, the Administration is not about to embark on a massive project with the capacity to inspire (or destroy) the American people and the rest of humanity. What a pity! Thankfully, one patriotic citizen has launched a petition on the White House's website "to secure funding and resources, and begin construction on a Death Star by 2016."

According to the petition: "By focusing our defense resources into a space-superiority platform and weapon system such as a Death Star, the government can spur job creation in the fields of construction, engineering, space exploration, and more, and strengthen our national defense."

We can't argue with that, and I'm certain President Kennedy would be proud. The petition has already received 6,332 signatures. For more on the topic, check out FT Alphaville's hilarious analysis of the project (registration required).

The micro view
AllThingsD reported this morning that Facebook (NASDAQ: FB  ) is in talks with Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) to buy its Atlas Solutions ad-placement service. The technology would enable Facebook to place ads on outside websites and put the company in direct competition with Google's (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) DoubleClick ad network. Microsoft gained Atlas through its 2007 acquisition of aQuantive for roughly $6.3 billion, $6.2 billion of which Microsoft down earlier this year – the sort of M&A prowess that makes Hewlett-Packard look like a smart acquirer. The sale of Atlas would not put a dent in that loss: The purchase price being discussed for Atlas is only in the tens of millions.

Microsoft made the aQuantive deal in a desperate, unsuccessful attempt to counter Google's 2007 acquisition of DoubleClick. Would Facebook be more successful in extracting value from an ad-sharing product? Given the social network's pervasiveness across the web, I think it's certainly in a better position to do so than Microsoft. In any event, with a price tag in the tens of millions (rather than billions), the deal is pocket change for Facebook.

If you want a comprehensive assessment of Facebook's business and its shares, click here to request technology analyst Evan Niu's premium report, which includes a full year of updates.

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