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The Day Abu Dhabi Became An Unlikely Crossroad For Search Wars

At the powerhouse Abu Dhabi Media Summit here at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, two of the biggest third-party search deals are being negotiated behind the scenes, we have learned. It just so happens that all the players involved were here for the last day or so: Google (NSDQ: GOOG) CEO Eric Schmidt, News Corp (NYSE: NWS) contingent of Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and Jon Miller, and AOL (NYSE: AOL) CEO Tim Armstrong.

The public posturing of News Corp-vs-Google and AOL-poaching-execs-from-Google aside, there is a lot at stake here. Between News Corp.’s MySpace deal and AOL deal, those are the two biggest third-party deals Google has on the search side, and both are being talked about separately by the parties here, a source told us. Also, both AOL and MySpace deals are expiring this year.

The biggest absentee from the conference: Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT). Early on during the planning of this conference, MSFT CEO Steve Ballmer was supposed to speak but it didn’t come through. One could argue that with the MSFT-Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) deal now in implementation stage, it could be that its hands are full with any “smaller” third party search deals, and that both AOL and MySpace deal will probably go to Google again, though on radically different — read reduced — terms than when they were first done.

The MySpace-Google three year deal, done at the height of MySpace’s popularity, is expiring in August, about six months from now, so likely a bit further along in renegotiations, than the AOL-Google deal, which is expiring later in December.

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