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Microsoft faces major market shifts

Andrew Leckey of BaltimoreSun.com was hoping for more from his shares of Microsoft Corp. Has the company lost its spark?

The world's largest software company must bulk up to do Internet battle with Google Inc.

To accomplish this, it is paying a premium cash price of about $6 billion to acquire aQuantive Inc., a leading advertising agency for the Internet that has strong display- and banner-ad technology. That is the largest acquisition in Microsoft's history.

In addition, it recently bought a minority stake in its job-listings partner CareerBuilder.com for an undisclosed amount. While reported talks to acquire Yahoo Inc. have been inconclusive, some type of partnership could take place there, too.

Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steven A. Ballmer, acknowledging that most of his firm's 150 or so acquisitions since 1990 have been relatively small, has stated, "We are open to large acquisitions."

More after the jump.

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