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Yahoo does it for love

Reading industry news these days is not for the faint of heart, and so we're happy to open this week's round of death watches and obituaries with the merry news that Yahoo is not, I repeat not, planning to charge for use of Yahoo Messenger starting Aug. 25.

Reading industry news these days is not for the faint of heart, and so we're happy to open this week's round of death watches and obituaries with the merry news that Yahoo is not, I repeat not, planning to charge for use of Yahoo Messenger starting Aug. 25.

"Rumors get started every day, and this is today's rumor," said a spokesperson for Yahoo.

We expected the conversation to end there, since Yahoo's normal policy is to never comment one way or another on rumors. But on this particular call, the spokesperson happily bantered on.

"There's no truth to it. We have absolutely no plans to start charging for Yahoo Messenger in the immediate future."

Yahoo, of course, is locked in a desperate battle to shore up revenues to bolster falling ad sales. It's begun to charge for its auctions, sparking an exodus from that service. It's also trying to get people to pay for things like financial products and extra storage on its Web-based e-mail service.

Not surprisingly, the company still leans heavily on advertising. Yahoo needs to do something big to change that. But IM is apparently too valuable to risk killing off in a short-term cash grab. For now, the company appears content to experiment with banner ads on its IM chat conference windows--not a likely chart-buster, especially now that house ads have replaced some of the slots formerly occupied by Webvan.

"There's no way we can address what could happen in the very, very, very distant future, but we have no plans to start charging," the spokesperson said. "We are not working toward that. We've been getting a lot of calls on this."

On the other end of the cheer spectrum, rumors abound that San Jose, Calif.-based AristaSoft is seeking a buyer. But it's looking like the ASP, in May named one of UpsideToday's Hot 100, is engaged in something of a fire sale.

One good indication of the state of the goods: The company just WARNed that it's closing its San Jose offices on Oct. 12, a move that will affect 192 people, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Investor CrossPoint Ventures referred calls to AristaSoft founder and CEO Drew Hoffman and VP Lorenzo Martinelli, who did not respond to e-mail or calls.

Perhaps they didn't want to answer pesky questions on how they burned through $103 million in venture capital in two short years.

Other companies in these parts that have had to WARN employees: Sanmina, closing up shop in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sept. 27 to the tune of 143 job losses and laying off 450 in Mountain View, Calif.; Maxtor, with 700 layoffs in Milpitas, Calif., July 3; TI Specialty Polymer Products eliminating 65 positions with a closure in Newbury Park, Calif., on Dec. 31; Globalstar, laying off 165 people Sept. 18 in San Jose, Calif.; and Flextronics laying off 80 Santa Clarans on Sept. 12. (CNET's 15 percent layoffs, announced last week, didn't trigger WARN requirements.)

And those are just July's WARNings.

With thousands of layoffs announced at Compaq Computer and more to come, the company apparently decided long-term planning was one of the optional activities. The company has "nuked" its corporate strategy team, one tipster reported. Also heavily hit have been many in the Digital Equipment offices in the Boston area.

A sling shot
It's been called a conference "bellwether" for dot-com and software executives, but the July 23-25 Industry Standard Internet Summit in Carlsbad, Calif., gave CEOs little more than an opportunity to try out Wi-Fi Internet access and send e-mail during boring presentations.

Perhaps the most entertaining banter came from Morgan Stanley managing partner Mary Meeker and Benchmark Capital partner Bill Gurley, who shared moderator duties.

Gurley announced to the crowd that he hurt his shoulder the week before the conference in a mountain biking accident. Parading on stage with his right arm in a sling, Gurley apologized for refraining from handshakes--and undoubtedly had a tough time buttoning his requisite khakis and cotton work shirts.

Meeker, a blunt-speaking, no-frills Indiana native who has become tougher as she comes under fire for her calls on Internet stocks, teased Gurley about the sling. It didn't come from a bike accident, Meeker said. Rather, she defeated the lanky VC in an arm wrestling contest. Every other week this summer I've broken a sweat chasing down your rumors.

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