In August of last year, TikTok was in talks to sell its U.S. operations because the Trump administration threatened to ban the app unless parent company ByteDance found a U.S. buyer for it.
At one point, Microsoft was one of the potential acquirers, but it backed out in September 2020, when Oracle was chosen to provide cloud servers for the app.
“First of all, you’ve got to remember, TikTok came to us, we didn’t go to TikTok,” Nadella said at the Code Conference in Beverly Hills, California. “TikTok was caught in between a lot of issues that they were having across two capitals, and they wanted to partner.”
TikTok initially wanted a cloud provider that could also offer security services, Nadella said.
“But I was pretty intrigued,” he said. “And let’s say it’s a great property, obviously.”
Nadella said the U.S. government seemed to eventually lose interest in pushing the transaction.
“President Trump, I think he had sort of a particular point of view on what he was trying to get done there,” Nadella said. “Then I just dropped off. It was interesting. There was a period of time that I felt that the USG had some particular set of requirements, and then they just disappeared.”
Nadella said Microsoft was well-positioned to purchase or partner with TikTok, which reported earlier this week that it has a billion monthly users around the world.
He said that Microsoft has the cloud platform, the security technology and “the engineers to be able to take over a code base.”
Additionally, Microsoft’s ability to moderate content and keep children safe on social media was also a draw for TikTok’s parent company.
“You better know something about running social media, which we know with either through Xbox Live or LinkedIn,” Nadella said.
Nadella declined to say if he still wanted to buy the app, indicating that he’s “happy with what I have.” But he admitted that the deal appealed to Microsoft because of TikTok’s technical design.
“It’s an interesting product,” Nadella said.
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