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Speaking at a technology conference near Milan, Ballmer said Yahoo's better-than-expected first-quarter results, reported on Tuesday, have not changed Microsoft's view of Yahoo's value.
Microsoft sees Yahoo as a way to compete with arch-rival Google Inc in the Internet search and advertising arena, but it has limits to what it is willing to pay to get a deal done.
"We're prepared to move forward without a merger with Yahoo," Ballmer said. "We think the best way to move forward quickly (and gain critical mass against Google) is to come together with Yahoo."