The Unbearable Yahoo-AOL-Microsoft Dance

Someone buy something, please. Our New York sighting of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer with Yahoo chairman Roy Bostock missed one: Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, who'd like to unload AOL.

Time Warner has been trying to sell its Internet unit since at least 2005, but Bewkes and his colleagues want a higher price than the market seems to be offering. Meanwhile, AOL's value keeps slipping.

Yahoo's top executives have thought about buying AOL to bulk up against Google — and, depending on who you ask, either fend off Microsoft, or make a more appealing package for Microsoft to buy.

Ballmer flirted with buying Yahoo, but really wants its search business; he'd be happy to pick up AOL's share of the search business, too, especially as it's controlled by Google.

The thing is, all of those statements are as true today as they were a year ago. In a year of round-and-round talks, nothing has changed — least of all, these players. Yahoo has a new CEO, former Autodesk chairman Carol Bartz, but the software executive wasn't in New York.

Fresh blood would be helpful here, to either get a deal done or declare talks off for good. Google has continued to add market share as its competitors dither; advertisers are getting nervous about its growing control of the online advertising business. They'd like to back a rival. But who? Less talk, more action, please. Only Larry and Sergey will be happy if Bewkes, Bostock, and Ballmer meet next year in New York.