If there was one indication that last week's wild rumor of Microsoft
But let's start with the reason why Mr. Softy gets dragged into the hearsay. With nearly $53 billion in cash and short-term investments, Microsoft isn't even a fill-in to the Mad Libs approach of mega-merger rumor mongering. It's a given, and only the name of the company to be allegedly bought out serves as the real variable.
In that sense, any Microsoft buyout rumor is silly. It can be argued that one of the many reasons why the company is so flush with cash is that it's always under tight regulatory scrutiny, given its gargantuan size and checkered monopolistic practices of the past. That's enough to shackle any promising buying spree opportunity.
But let's think about this one. When Time Warner ditched its AOL moniker -- and ticker symbol -- it spoke volumes. Unloading America Online, even if it would be at a fraction of the company's stand-alone value in its dot-com heyday, would be one way for Time Warner to get back to basics with a rejuvenated balance sheet.
Microsoft, on the other hand, rarely fails. Even against the class of Apple
But Microsoft isn't a powerhouse everywhere. Its Xbox is awfully cool but it's still a very distant second to Sony's
Say what you will about growing broadband usage nullifying the original selling points of AOL, it's still a nifty platform of proprietary content with a loyalty-endearing interface that stands out in a cookie-cutter world.
So will it happen? Don't wait up. But, if anything, the fact that AOL is losing market share to its non-Microsoft rivals may make it a smoother transaction to run past the governing regulatory forces. The price would be good, too.
But it won't happen. It makes too much sense.
Is Time Warner really putting AOL on the block? Does Microsoft have a shot -- or even an interest? If you were Time Warner and decided to keep AOL, what would you do to try to revive the franchise? All this and more -- in the Time Warner discussion board. Only on Fool.com.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been an AOL member since the early days of 1992. He does not own shares in any companies mentioned in this story.