As you may have seen and heard recently if you keep track of the news, Tik Tok is in dire straits. That isn’t because the product is underperforming, or because its (mostly) Generation Z audience has abandoned it; it’s because it’s a Chinese creation, and Chinese tech products are currently under intense scrutiny in the United States of America. Mike Pompeo has threatened to ban Tik Tok in the past, and more recently, President Donald Trump has said that implementing the ban is on his political agenda. Much to the dismay of the millions of people who use it regularly, the writing might be on the wall for Tik Tok.
All may not yet be lost, though. Tik Tok is only under threat because it’s in Chinese hands. If the app’s parent company ByteDance could be persuaded to sell the product to another company – say, for example, an American company – the threat of deletion might disappear. Given the size and success of the app all over the world, such a deal couldn’t be done cheaply. There are only a few companies in the world who would have the resources to consider the idea. Among them are Apple and Microsoft, and both have been linked with making bids. Let’s take them one at a time.
The first thing we can say about Microsoft is that they’re definitely interested in doing the deal – or at least they were until Donald Trump complicated the matter. A deal between Microsoft and ByteDance is thought to have been agreed in principle, but Trump then came forward and stated his belief that the US Treasury should be entitled to a significant cut of any deal made between the two entities. He hasn’t specified how much he thinks the nation should get as a percentage, and it’s far from clear that he has the right to impose such a condition, but the announcement is thought to have made Microsoft nervous. If there was an agreed deal on the table – which nobody has so far been able to confirm – it might be withdrawn, amended, or even torn up completely in light of the President’s comments.
Microsoft’s motivations for getting hold of Tik Tok are twofold. Firstly they’d pick up an enormous amount of Tik Tok customer data as part of the purchase, and secondly, they’d be able to build games and other services that connect Tik Tok to the Xbox console. With a new generation version of the Xbox on the horizon and a huge rival to take on in the shape of Sony and their PlayStation, anything that could potentially give the Microsoft console an advantage would have to be considered a good thing by the company. Exclusive connectivity between the Xbox and the app might persuade some young customers to purchase the Microsoft machine rather than the Sony one, and that might become a decisive factor in the gaming wars.
While Microsoft’s interest is not in doubt, it appears that Apple is far less interested in making a move. The relationship between Apple and ByteDance is somewhat fraught after Apple outright accused TokTok of spying on iPhone apps earlier in the year, which led to the app briefly disappearing from the App Store in mid-July. Despite the appearance of several rumors on the internet within the past few days about the potential for an Apple buyout, the company has issued a statement to tech website The Verge in which they state that they’ve had no contact with ByteDance about the matter, and have no intention to pursue such a deal. Unless they’re trying to keep their cards close to their chest, it seems that they’re not in the running.
Apple’s reluctance to act might be considered surprising. Even though relations between the two companies concerned might be frosty, there would be no further need for Apple to maintain a relationship with ByteDance after the deal completes. The benefits to Apple would be similar to the benefits to Microsoft; they would have access to a brand new treasure trove of customer data, and an obvious route to making connections between Tik Tok and the iPhone. The phone handset market is every bit as competitive as the video game console market (if not more so), and if Tik Tok became exclusive to iPhones, it would be likely to result in a spike of the sales of the devices, at the expense of Google, Samsung, Huawei, and several other big-name names in the mobile phone market.
On the other hand, perhaps their reluctance is understandable. Apple’s latest set of product innovations hasn’t gone well for the company. Apple Arcade, which is the company’s arcade game answer to an online slots website with dozens of games accessed through one central portal, has been disappointing. If we were to borrow a parlance from online slots, it’s been a spin and a loss. There’s a reason that the biggest and most popular online slots websites attract so many players, and that’s because they have a wide range of wildly popular Online Slots UK. Apple Arcade doesn’t have that appeal. The games published to date have been disappointing, and it’s thought that a rethink of the product’s strategy is currently underway. Apple Card and Apple TV have fared little better, and it might be the case that the company is currently focusing on its tried-and-tested products rather than making risky and expensive acquisitions.
While Tik Tok’s fate hangs in the balance at the moment, it’s doubtful that it will be allowed to fail. The route that the US would take to implement a ban on the app isn’t clear, and even if it were to become clear, the fact that ByteDance is willing to sell means that someone will come forward and buy it. If the Microsoft deal can’t be done, and Apple is telling the truth about its lack of interest, it’s still possible that another company like Google or even Disney could come forward and make the purchase themselves. There are too many Tik Tok users in the USA for the product to go away, and if they were suddenly denied access to their favorite app, they would probably hold it against the US Government at the next election. We suspect that Tik Tok will weather the storm and find new owners in the process, but we don’t think those new owners will slap the Apple logo on it.