Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, defended the price in an interview, saying the deal—the biggest in his company’s 36-year history—will let Microsoft “be more ambitious, do more things.”

And the Journal notes something critical the Times does not: That Microsoft is buying Skype with profits it has held overseas to avoid paying income taxes in the U.S. It also points out that Microsoft has a not-so-sterling track record with big acquisitions.

The WSJ also devotes a Heard on the Street piece to how much Microsoft is overpaying for Skype. It raises the critical question of what the heck Skype’s business model—remember those?—is:

Microsoft’s job may be to make “life better for billions of people” around the world, as CEO Steve Ballmer said Tuesday. But in paying $8.5 billion for Skype, it is improving life mainly for Skype’s owners.

Most of the investors that now own the Web telephony company bought into it only 18 months ago, in a deal that valued Skype at $2.75 billion. In contrast, the chance of Microsoft’s long-suffering shareholders ever seeing a healthy return from Skype is doubtful.

Yes, Skype has a huge user base, 663 million as of Dec. 31, and a well-known brand name. But even in the Internet age, that isn’t enough to generate returns from such a high-priced deal. There still needs to be a decent business model.

Skype doesn’t have that

Good stuff.

The Times did put a brief piece up yesterday pointing out that analysts and others are raising questions about what Microsoft paid. That story, however, didn’t make the paper. And if we’re talking about online-only offerings, check the withering criticism of the price from the WSJ columnist Evan Newmark, who says it offers “8.5 Billion Reasons to Fire Steve Ballmer.”

Needless to say, more skepticism is due here from the NYT. The Journal and FT are a model here if we’re going to avoid repeating the media mistakes of the first tech bubble.


Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.