Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) sure knows how to kick a desperate suitor when it's down -- right in the teeth.

Speaking from Australia this morning, CEO Steve Ballmer offered up some pretty disheartening news to those believing that a hookup with Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) is possible.

"We are not interested in going back and relooking at an acquisition," Ballmer said. "I don't know why they would be either, frankly. They turned us down at $33 a share."

Investors feel that this is a dagger in Yahoo!'s already broken heart. The stock opened 11% lower on the news.

I don't see it that way at all. If we weigh Ballmer's words -- and we should, given the gravity of the situation -- it's really just a jab followed by an invitation to negotiate.

This isn't the first time that Ballmer has pointed out that Yahoo! balked at Microsoft's final $33 offer. The only reason that the number bears mentioning is to roil up shareholders who see their Yahoo! certificates marked down to nearly a third of that price.

This isn't a kiss-off. This is a call for Yahoo! to step forward and name its rock-bottom "make me move" price. Ballmer wants Yahoo! CEO Jerry Yang to pay for his earlier reluctance, taking the walk of shame to naming a price somewhere in the teens.

This doesn't mean that Ballmer will jump at the chance to buy a desperate Yahoo! at a reasonable price. Microsoft's ideal situation is to simply acquire Yahoo!'s search business or partner with Yahoo! for access.

Yahoo! may be dumb, but it's no dummy. It will never sell its search business alone. Yahoo! without search is like Jessica Simpson without the body, Barbara Streisand without a singing voice, or Donald Trump without the swagger.

Microsoft can't get cocky. It raised enough of a ruckus to get Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) to walk away from partnership talks with Yahoo!, but the desperation may find Yahoo! snapping up smaller Web portals like Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) AOL or Ask.com parent IAC (NASDAQ:IACI). The more it insults Yahoo!, the more it will repel the search engine it secretly covets.

Microsoft wants Yahoo! to make the first move. It wants Yahoo! to name a price. It wants the public to laugh at Yahoo! if the Yahooligans are bold enough to think that they are worth anything north of $18. Then again, Microsoft is also tempting Yahoo! to reshape the relationship by going public with a more realistic price tag given today's deteriorating market conditions. If Yahoo!'s board puts out a reasonable buyout price come Monday morning, just watch how quickly Ballmer goes from teasing Yahoo! for its costly springtime decision to going down on bended knee.

He's just not that into you, Jerry. Check that. He is so into you, Jerry.

More on what Yahoo! is really worth:

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz spends plenty of time on Yahoo!'s sites, but he does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

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