Microsoft Buys Ad Firm aQuantive for $6 Bln

In what marks the Redmond software giant’s largest corporate aquisition to date, Microsoft announced today it plans to acquire Seattle-based Internet advertising firm aQuantive for about $6 billion.

“The advertising industry is evolving and growing at an incredible pace, moving increasingly toward online and IP-served platforms, which dramatically increases the importance of software for this industry,” said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. “Today’s announcement represents the next step in the evolution of our ad network from our initial investment in MSN, to the broader Microsoft network including Xbox Live, Windows Live and Office Live, and now to the full capacity of the Internet.”

The acquisition is designed to increase Microsoft’s profile in the online advertising world, a business successfully exploited by the likes of Yahoo and (particularly) Google to raise the companies to positions where they’re beginning to challenges Microsoft for dominant positions in the computing industry. Microsoft hopes to leverage aQuantive’s services and technologies to offer advertisers cross-media advertising services, encompassing not only Internet and online properties, but also markets like video-on-demand and IPTV.

aQuantive has about 2,600 employees and may be best known for its Razorfish interactive ad agency; the transaction is expected to close in the first half of Microsoft’s 2008 fiscal year and—here’s the kicker—the $6 billion price tag isn’t expected to have any significant impact on Microsoft’s financial guidance for the year.