Microsoft (MSFT)'s investment in RealNames is small potatoes compared to the mega-deals bounding around the media today, but it got good ink because - well, they're Microsoft, and you're not.
The RealNames service lets surfers substitute keywords for those pesky URLs. The software giant will buy 20 percent of the about-to-IPO RealNames for a sum the Wall Street Journal estimated at $13 million. The deal makes Microsoft the largest investor in RealNames, ahead of Network Solutions (dossier), according to Reuters.
The Times' Amy Harmon was apparently the only reporter to file from the PC Forum conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., where Microsoft President Steve Ballmer will announce the deal today. Harmon interviewed conference host Esther Dyson about the agreement, and the woman who also wears the hat of ICANN chairperson muttered about the dangers of monopoly. Wonder why that word was on her mind?
The media couldn't agree on exactly what the deal lets Microsoft do with the RealNames technology. The Journal said Microsoft would extend RealNames support to its older browsers. The New York Times thought the investment would buy the company the right to move RealNames into its MSN online service. Reuters said the MSN search service already uses RealNames; CNET (CNET) said Microsoft "already offers its service through Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser and MSN Web portal." Whatever.
CNET's Jim Hu put his finger on the real advantages the deal offered Microsoft. He focused on Microsoft's plan to ride RealNames into the Internet Engineering Task Force, which has recently formed a working group on a "common name resolution protocol." Hu quoted Microsoft spokeswoman Deanna Sanford: "We think (RealNames) is a great solution that works across the entire Internet, and it's not a proprietary system." That separates it from other popular keyword services, such as AOL (dossier)'s. - Keith Dawson
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