Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has weighed in on the company's plans to acquire the US arm of TikTok. In an interview with CNBC, Ballmer said Microsoft's pursuit of TikTok is "exciting."
"Obviously it depends on the price," Ballmer said. "Price is important as well as whatever restrictions come with it from a government perspective, but I think it’s an exciting avenue for Microsoft to really increase its consumer base."
Microsoft announced its intent to acquire TikTok in the United States on Sunday. The Trump administration was on the verge of banning the popular Chinese app on security grounds before the company stepped in last week. The software giant is looking to buy TikTok's operations in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. It promises transparency and that it'll transfer and keep all private data of TikTok’s American users within the country.
Microsoft also promises appropriate security oversight by governments into the service. However, acquiring TikTok would still likely put the company under the regulatory scrutiny it has largely avoided of late. Other major consumer-facing tech companies – Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google – have all been subject to some intense scrutiny in recent years.
CEOs of these four tech giants last week testified in front of the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust. Among other things, there were questions regarding Facebook's acquisition of Instagram. The social media giant bolstered its dominance in the industry by gobbling up a rival startup in 2012. Now, Microsoft, already a dominant force in the tech industry, taking over TikTok is being seen as an anti-competitive move as well.
Microsoft is well-equipped to deal with any regulatory scrutiny regarding TikTok: Ballmer
Microsoft has had its focus more on enterprise customers over consumer-facing businesses in recent years. And that is one of the reasons why it isn't much under regulatory scrutiny of late. Perhaps, lessons learned from the previous antitrust battle some 20 years ago.
However, if the company acquires TikTok in the US, which seems very likely, it'll once again be playing in the consumer-facing business industry. This move could also put the software giant back in the regulatory hot seat.
Ballmer, who served as Microsoft's CEO between 2000 to 2014, says consumer-facing businesses are the company's "roots" and that it is well-equipped to deal with any regulatory issues that TikTok's acquisition would bring. He further said that Microsoft doesn't have any "cozy" relationship with the Chinese government. If there was any, Microsoft’s business would have been bigger in China, Ballmer suggested. The ex CEO is still the company's largest shareholder.