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Would a Microsoft TikTok acquisition be anything less than completely crazy?

If ByteDance divests its TikTok U.S. operations, are there enough potential gaming, education or chat synergies for Microsoft to buy it? Or will (and should) Microsoft stick to its business knitting?
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Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor on

Bloomberg is reporting that President Donald Trump is planning to order Beijing-based ByteDance to divest ownership of its TikTok social-video app in the US. Trump and other politicians have claimed TikTok may be a conduit for the Chinese government to spy on or meddle with US citizens.

One of the companies said to be kicking the TikTok tires, according to various reports, is Microsoft.

First things first: Microsoft does due diligence on lots and lots of tech properties when they're for sale or soon to be for sale. That doesn't mean the Redmondians end up buying many/most of them. See Salesforce, Slack, Yahoo, and more for examples of companies Microsoft allegedly considered but took a pass on.

But before you (like me) immediately dismiss these TikTok rumors as sheer lunacy, it's worth thinking this through. Even though Microsoft is all about business software and services, there are a couple of parts of the company focused on trying to make Microsoft more appealing to a younger audience.

The obvious one is the gaming franchise at Microsoft. As Rafael Rivera (@WithinRafael) on Twitter noted, maybe there could be synergies between TikTok and Xbox/xCloud. Or maybe TikTok could be a fit with Minecraft (and/or FlipGrid, its educational video-streaming platform, I would add). Or could it play in somehow with Skype consumer or Teams consumer?

Microsoft recently discontinued its Mixer streaming franchise after pouring a lot of money and effort into this acquisition. And Microsoft's track record in keeping consumer-focused properties alive has been spotty at best. (See the consumer-focused parts of Cortana for the latest example.)

The reason I'm writing about Microsoft and TikTok at all is I've been very wrong on some of my Microsoft predictions in the past. I didn't think Microsoft was going to buy LinkedIn. I didn't believe Microsoft would buy Nokia's phone business right up until it did (like a number of Microsoft's own execs).

Microsoft has a lot of cash and a lot of political goodwill compared to its big tech rivals -- which were just in Washington this week to defend themselves against antitrust concerns. It also just crossed the $10-billion-annual threshold with its gaming software and subscription business, according to Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood (speaking to employees and partners last week). 

Anything Microsoft can do to grow the only successful consumer business it has left might be something Hood, Nadella, and Co. would be willing to take a risk on...

Thoughts? Is there a Microsoft TikTok 365 E7 Game Pass just waiting to be born?

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