Kara Swisher

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MicroHoo: Decision Time at 1 p.m. PDT Today?

clock ticking

Memo to Yahoo from Microsoft: We will begin bombing in 30 minutes!

Whether it is love-bombing or the other kind, it’s still a mystery to BoomTown.

But, according to sources close to Microsoft (MSFT), as early as today, sometime after the market closes, might be when it renders its decision on the next step in its Yahoo (YHOO) takeover battle.

Unless it changes its mind, of course, and decides tomorrow. Or Saturday.

It depends on your definition of imminent. Microsoft’s seems to be a little flexible.

Good lord, the suspense is killing us. Well, not really, as once this decision is made, there will be another and then another and then another.

It’s like the Democratic presidential race, except there’s no Reverend Wright to liven up the proceedings.

But sources close to the company said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer first wanted to ping the board and also Microsoft employees to gauge sentiment, which he did yesterday and today.

At the town hall meeting, which BoomTown reported was taking place today with less-than-enthusiastic support for the Yahoo deal from Microsoft troops, Silicon Alley Insider managed to call into the meeting and got this Ballmer quote:

“We’re interested to pay for it at some level and beyond that level we’re not willing to pay for it. I know exactly what I think Yahoo is worth and I won’t go a dime above.”

His options: Walk away for a little bit. Walk away permanently. Raise the price. Lower the price. Hold pat and initiate a proxy fight, releasing a slate of alternate directors.

That or solve its vexing problem in the online ad business by buying Google! Hey, it could happen! OK, not so much.

In all seriousness, BoomTown prediction: Walk away for a little bit. It’s the most dastardly thing to do, possibly tanking Yahoo’s stock and showing who is in charge. Second choice: Proxy fight.

We’d like see a slight price rise, to $33 a share, which would be hard for Yahoo to refuse and a 48-hour deadline to start negotiations. It would seem fair and urgent and give Yahoo little room to maneuver.

But it is hard to see how Ballmer will be able to overcome his obviously impatient nature and reward Yahoo for its recalcitrant behavior.

In any case, time will tell. Or not!