At high noon tomorrow, Eastern time, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Apple’s Tim Cook and Google’s Sundar Pichai will appear via videoconference before Congress in a long-awaited showdown with the House of Representatives antitrust subcommittee. If you are planning to watch, make sure you have a comfortable chair and plenty of snacks. The grilling could last as long as six hours.
Don’t be disheartened if things get off to a slow start as both committee members and the tech executives make opening statements. Although the CEOs prepare long written statements that are released ahead of time, their live remarks are likely to be limited to five minutes each. But it is during the Q&A where things should get interesting. If past experience is any guide, most of the action will occur in the first 90 minutes. After that, you may see the back-and-forth become a bit repetitive as various lawmakers take turns posing the same provocative questions to the same witnesses.
Microsoft’s Talks to Buy TikTok Follow Headwinds for Investor Plan
Microsoft is in serious talks to acquire TikTok, the hugely popular Chinese-owned video app, The Information has confirmed, after separate talks for a U.S. investor group to buy the app ran into headwinds on both political and business grounds.
Senior ByteDance executives see Microsoft as more able to afford Tiktok, which could be worth $30 billion or more, and to have a management team that could absorb the app more easily than if it was a standalone company. ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming also has ties to Microsoft, having worked there early in his career. TikTok’s global general counsel Erich Andersen also has a strong Microsoft connection: he joined TikTok in January after 20 years at the software giant.
Microsoft Talks to TikTok: The Information’s Tech Briefing
News that Microsoft is in talks to buy TikTok raises all sorts of fascinating questions. Microsoft in recent years has been much more focused on selling to business customers than individuals; TikTok would take them in the opposite direction. The closest fit within Microsoft’s business would be its Xbox gaming division, although it isn’t that close.
It also would raise Microsoft’s exposure to the advertising business, which isn’t ideal for Microsoft shareholders. One reason why Microsoft has skated through the pandemic largely unaffected is its lack of dependency on ad revenue. One big question is whether antitrust regulators would approve the deal. True, this is a new area for Microsoft. But one of the concerns expressed by politicians in recent days is the influence of big tech. A TikTok acquisition wouldn’t reduce a big tech company’s power.
It would, however, create a formidable rival to Facebook and Google’s YouTube, both of which compete with TikTok. For that reason alone, antitrust regulators may be happy.—Martin Peers
The Information’s 411 — Cyberpunk Barons
It was a big week for tech and politics as the four leaders of the major U.S. tech companies testified in front of the House Antitrust subcommittee. We spoke to Alex Heath and Chris Stern about which CEOs weathered the questions from lawmakers best and where the antitrust investigations go from here. Then Cory speaks to Anissa Gardizy about delivery startup GoPuff and the problems its skyrocketing growth has caused for its neighbors.
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