Now, however, Microsoft is in talks with AppNexus to sell its ailing aQuantive online ad business, according to Ad Age.
Terms were not disclosed, but the unit will almost certainly go for a loss. Microsoft paid $6.3 billion for aQuantive in 2007. It wrote off $6.2 billion of that earlier this year. Microsoft's online ad business lost $364 million on revenues of $697 million in Q3 2012.
An aQuantive deal would suddenly make AppNexus one of the biggest real-time bidding platforms on the web. The company has already grown to 350 employees, but Business Insider's Nicholas Carlson reported earlier this month that three key executives have been looking to leave, and the company has had difficulty raising new venture capital at the valuation it wants.
Microsoft wants to offload aQuantive by the end of the year. It already sold Razorfish to Publicis Groupe in 2009. And it shot itself in the foot with its "do not track" plan for Internet Explorer 10, which is opposed by the ad industry.
The company's execs may be saying they're committed to the ad biz. But judging by their behavior, it looks more like they're trying to get out of it.
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