Microsoft wants a slice of TikTok 6 August 2020
ON JULY 29TH the bosses of Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and Facebook endured a five-hour videoconference with a congressional subcommittee on antitrust. Satya Nadella, chief executive of Microsoft, America’s other technology titan, spent the day talking to investors, recruiting new hires and reviewing the latest quarterly numbers. His presence was not required—Microsoft no longer attracts the controversies that bring politicians running.
Or does it? On August 2nd the firm said it was in talks to buy the American, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand operations of TikTok, a wildly popular but problematic Chinese-owned video-sharing app. President Donald Trump had mused about banning it over fears that it could hand data on Americans to China’s Communist authorities, despite protestations by its parent company, ByteDance, that it would never do such a thing. After some unusual steps to mollify Mr Trump—including a statement in which it thanked him effusively for his “personal involvement”—Microsoft has until September 15th to hash out a deal.
Other suitors may cut in. ByteDance’s venture-capital backers, most of whom are American, will try to flush out rival bidders. They are disappointed that ByteDance failed to head off TikTok’s political travails. The Chinese group should have spun off the American unit this spring, keeping…