Unless you live under a rock, you know by now that Microsoft has invested $240 million in Facebook, the high-flying social networking company based in Palo Alto, Calif. Microsoft reportedly beat out Google to do the deal. The move comes only a month after Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was quoted as saying that social networking was just a "fad." In light of the news and the attendant buzz, Inc. staffers Max Chafkin, Bobbie Gossage, and Mike Hofman decided to draft a series of questions that we would like for Microsoft founder Bill Gates to address. Here they are:
1. For all the hubbub, this is a relatively small investment in a company. You bought just 1.6 percent of Facebook, much less than the 5 or 10 percent stake that some were expecting. So why all the fuss?
2. Do you worry that this could be a distraction both in Redmond and externally given that Microsoft is entering a critical phase in terms of getting the market to embrace the new Vista operating system?
3. Did Rupert Murdoch call this morning to thank you for making his MySpace investment seem even more shrewd?
4. Is this just an advertising deal packaged as an investment?
5. Do you intend to continue operating Microsoft's social network, Windows Live Spaces, given that it stacks up (not so well) against Facebook?
6. Microsoft reportedly beat out Google to do this deal. Is the rivalry between Microsoft and Google really the meta-narrative here, and your interest in social networking merely incidental?
7. Are you making money selling ads on Facebook, or is the cost of the advertising inventory greater than the rates you charge, as some have suggested?
8. Is this alliance culturally a good fit, given that Microsoft likes to keep its source code interface proprietary while Facebook has made a big deal of making that open to other application developers? Can you have such different philosophies about technological innovation and still be otherwise compatible?
9. Given that you recently spun off Bungie LLC, the company that makes the Halo games, can we presume that Microsoft, as a corporate strategy, has come to favor maintaining minority equity positions in a bunch of small companies, rather than owning or acquiring companies outright?
10. Have you posted on Mark Zuckerberg's Fun Wall yet?