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Letters from the Front

Microsoft recently revealed that they are in talks to acquire a good chunk of TikTok’s western operations, notably TikTok Canada, TikTok US, Australia, and New Zealand from its owner ByteDance. ByteDance recently went on the chopping block for the Trump Administration admist its ongoing trade war with China. Concerns over TikTok has been a thing for a while, since its introduction, these concerns include user data that can be accessed by the Chinese who spearheaded the conflict, which has effectively led to Microsoft’s involvement, a trusted vendor of the US Armed Forces and US government.

They stated on their blog that TikTok would continue to operate in a largely autonomous way, but Microsoft would come in to handle the data in accordance with regulations of the law and enhance privacy.

Besides my own personal feelings of TikTok, I met this surprising news with bemusement and confusion at the same time. Microsoft’s track record with these sort of things is absolutely horrendous, they have an uncanny ability to run things into the ground, things like Skype and Mixer and numerous Windows products like Windows Phone and Microsoft Band. While these things is a worthy example of how Microsoft can fail to understand their consumers, ByteDance will still remain to largely operate their own creation gives the network a chance to survive Microsoft.

TikTok is a giant of a social media network. It’s not fair to compare Twitch, Mixer, and other streaming platforms to TikTok. As the frontrunner for years in the video game streaming space, Twitch is tiny when compared to TikTok. TikTok is genuinely a large platform, vastly eating their competitors lunch with rapid-cut content that makes everyone a ton of cash. When Microsoft closes the deal with ByteDance, Microsoft will become a social media powerhouse in less than 30 seconds which combined with LinkedIn will make Microsoft a giant.

However, TikTok is a platform where you create a real life video of 30 to 20 seconds. There isn’t a lot of gaming content on the platform, Microsoft doesn’t even have a profile on there. TikTok doesn’t have a live streaming component, so these two things are unexplored spaces, particularly when it comes to Xbox and how the giant social media network can help the Xbox brand.

Microsoft is on a mission when it comes to the Xbox brand. Their mission is to reach two billion gamers worldwide and hopes to use accessibility as the vehicle to break the barrier. Project xCloud and Xbox Game Pass will bring Microsoft’s portfolio to tens of millions of Android devices next month, although the wider market has an appetite for that remains to be seen but that isn’t the point here. Even if game streaming takes off, Microsoft needs to position itself to win this market’s segment ahead of some of its big tech sisters and brothers, notably Amazon and Google and Tencent with WeChat and other services under their umbrella. The only company that doesn’t have a social graph to link some of their things together. LinkedIn is very work oriented, Skype is dead, Mixer is dead, and we know what happens to their ventures.

TikTok can help in that regard. TikTok can fix Microsoft’s blindspot, giving it a userbase to prop up the Xbox brand and prop up their services. Google has already done this with their promises of entering a game just through Youtube videos via Google Stadia, there is no reason to think that Microsoft can do the same with Halo or Sea of Thieves with TikTok. They could promote a game like Halo: Infinite or Sea of Thieves with ads on the service, while giving users the option to instantly jump into a free trial of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate cloud streaming on the very device they use to text their friends. Microsoft can use the technology from Mixer to bring livestreaming to TikTok, a feature which is not seen on the platform.

In conclusion, Microsoft’s acquisition of TikTok is a strange one to me and a funny one at that but in the end it could very well help the Xbox brand in ways that weren’t imaginable.


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