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Bill Gates calls potential Microsoft-TikTok deal 'poison chalice'

Tiktok Microsoft Logo Hero
Tiktok Microsoft Logo Hero (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates chimed in on Microsoft's potential acquisition of TikTok in a new interview.
  • Gates called the deal a "poisoned chalice," referencing the complications of running a social media platform.
  • Microsoft is said to be interested in acquiring all of TikTok, though a new order effectively banning it in the U.S. may complicate things.

Last week, word broke that Microsoft was in talks to acquire TikTok amid threats of its ban in the U.S. because of its Chinese ownership. The story has evolved considerably since then, with President Trump most recently issuing an executive order that would effectively ban the app in 45 days. Now, former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates has briefly chimed in on the deal in an interview with Wired.

As part of a larger interview about pandemic testing in the U.S., Gates was asked about his thoughts on the TikTok deal. "Who knows what's going to happen with that deal," Gates said. "But yes, it's a poison chalice. Being big in the social media business is no simple game, like the encryption issue."

"I mean, this may sound self-serving, but I think that the game being more competitive is probably a good thing," Gates said in response to a question about whether he was "wary" of Microsoft getting into the social media game. "But having Trump kill off the only competitor, it's pretty bizarre."

Going further, Gates said that the way the potential deal is playing out is "strange," but the Trump administration's request for a cut of any deal is "doubly strange." Ultimately, Gates says, "Microsoft will have to deal with all of that."

Following word about Microsoft's interest in TikTok last week, talks were said to be on hold contingent on how the Trump administration would approach its rumored ban. On Sunday, Microsoft confirmed it was indeed in talks with TikTok, and that they had resumed after discussions with the Trump administration. On Tuesday, President Trump signaled that he would be okay with Microsoft purchasing TikTok as long as the deal is done by September 15.

As of August 6, reporting indicates that Microsoft is interested in buying all of TikTok's global business. Prior to this, it was thought that just the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand markets were being considered.

In response to the ongoing efforts by the Trump administration, Chinese state media called the moves a "smash and grab" and vowed retaliation is the U.S. carries out its "theft" of a Chinese company. After the Trump administration issued an executive order that could ban TikTok in the U.S. should a deal not be reached, TikTok slammed the executive order, stating that it was "issued without any due process."

Will Microsoft buy TikTok? Here are 3 reasons why it should

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the Editor in Chief for Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl. Got a hot tip? Send it to daniel.thorp-lancaster@futurenet.com.

17 Comments
  • All things considered, I feel Reddit would be a better match for Microsoft.
  • I still think they should buy it. it will let Microsoft fight against google YouTube .
    in a way of data and add info for Bing and a video service .
  • What is TikTok?
  • I alway thought it was the sound and old clock made.
  • No one is 'forcing' MS to buy tiktok. If they don't buy it, it closes. Not MS problem in that case
  • Is the US government going to IP block TikTok? Do they do for anything else? Not sure how they do this beyond taking the app off the big stores. That certainly doesn't seem effective.
  • Yes. IP block does come under "banning" a service in a particular country. In India tiktok was banned first it was removed from app stores then within a week it was IP blocked by every telecom operator in the country.
  • Donald knows how to kill tiktok, i.e. let microsoft buys it.
  • I think it will die anyways. Would be a money sink, imagine buying Vine when it was big. These apps seem to be fads.
  • Don't forget tiktok has other markets than the US... And they are still growing fast in some of them... It's over the time controlling the US was the only way to dominate internationally... And if they are indeed backed up by the Chinese gov... They are not going anywhere... Vine had nothing close to tiktok global market penetration.. And nowhere the features tiktok can offer... It's already used s a marketing tool by many to drive traffic to their page or even brick and mortar businesses.... Not only they won't collapse but it will hurt some people using it to advertise their small business... In the current situation not sure it's the right move anyway... We'll see how it develops... A lot of wind is blowing world wide right now
  • True vine became fad when not even 1/3rd of the current internet users were there. We were using 3G even that was hard to get in majority of the countries at the time. Tiktok has way more market penetration than vine ever had it was just early and limited to few markets because of the internet penetration and accessibility to the masses.
  • And everyone thought ending Vine was stupid and the popularity of TikTok proves it
  • Why is anyone OK with Trump abusing his power like this? With Huawei, at least there was a history of security issues. With TikTok, Trump just doesn't like that its users mock him so effectively. And the government getting a cut, like it's a mob deal? This is how authoritarians behave.
  • "This is how authoritarians behave"....oh the irony, TikTok, like all apps are prone to collecting data. I dont mind Google, or whatever American company you chose to throw out, collecting my data. In my case, it is used to sell me things I dont want, or tailor my Android experience to the way I browse, travel, etc. Every company in China is subservient to the whims of the CCP, so much so, its a law. So if the CCP requests data from TikTok, they are bound by law to hand it over. Here, there are a ton of hoops to jump through to get personal data released. So, If you want to keep throwing out the "oragnge man bad" trope go ahead, just be prepared for four more years of him. Btw, why dont you ask the Uigher Muslims about what real authoritarians do to them.....I swear America has become too lazy and decadent. No body here is oppressed.
  • What security issues. To date, neither the USA or UK has presented the public with a single shred of actual evidence of Huawei's wrongdoing. Not a shred. Every time we ask for evidence of wrongdoing, we get the old "hey, we have evidence, but we can't discuss it with you lot." On a less homicidal level, this is exactly with Bush and Blair done in Iraq....."we know they have bad weapons, but we're not going to share that info with the public. You'll just have to take our word for it." Turned out it was bull from start to end. Trump has a massive trade issue with China, and he can't create a trade balance. We're all sucked into China's massive economy, and on that front Trump makes a fair point. A more balanced trade would be better for everyone. But rather than trying to create a fair and balanced trade, he's effectively assassinating Chinese companies like Huawei and Tiktok. That's not ok. I get that China rarely plays by the rules, and need to be curtailed, but if they went after Apple or Intel the way Trump is going after their technology assets, he's have aircraft carriers in the South China sea, bombing them back to the dark ages. He's a hypocrite at best, and a maniac at worst.
  • Not sure you want to try to get China back to the dark ages... Not only do they have weapons to back them up too... But they have tech wide spread and the manpower... If a war effort happens they could just outrun anyone.... But in any case anyone OK with Google because it's American and outraged by tiktok is a tard période and has no clue....
  • Wonder if Daniel Rubino still thinks that Microsoft buying tiktok is a Good idea, with big Bill himself saying it's probably not. To be clear, it definitely isn't