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AOL: Belle Of The Ball

America Online, once disparaged as a lead weight around the neck of Time Warner, is suddenly a hot property. Again. Google, Comcast and Microsoft are all reportedly panting to ally themselves with, or buy into, AOL.

America Online, once disparaged as a lead weight around the neck of Time Warner, is suddenly a hot property. Again.

The Wall Street Journal today reports that Google and Comcast are weighing an investment in AOL.

Citing the usual unnamed sources, the Journal reports that these talks focus on the AOL's content and portal, not its flagging dial-up Web access biz. Last week the same paper reported that Microsoft and AOL have been yakking a long time about allying their fiercely competitive MSN and AOL online services.

Microsoft launched MSN nearly ten years ago, to get a piece of the online services pie, taking on giants AOL, CompuServe and Prodigy. WHile the latter two faded and got gobbled up, MSN remains in a bloody battle for eyeballs (now there's an image) with AOL and Yahoo.

A Google/Comcast/AOL alliance is also presumably aimed at Yahoo. And MSN.

Since Google gets a ton of advertising revenue via an AOL alliance, the search kingpin clearly does not want to see an AOL pact with Microsoft. In fact, the old Anyone But Microsoft (ABM) crowd now seems to be glomming onto Google just as they used to cling to Sun, or Netscape, or IBM. If you don't believe that look at the silly Google-Sun lovefest last week. One could call that an announcement but that would imply there was some actual news. Such was not the case.

Interestingly, Microsoft already owns a piece of Comcast. And vice versa. It's getting so we'll need more than one score card to track this stuff

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