Microsoft’s Poisoned Chalice


This post is by M.G. Siegler from 500ish - Medium

Bill Gates sure seems to feel strongly about that TikTok deal…

Photo by Matt Riches on Unsplash

Like seemingly everyone on the internet, I thought Steven Levy’s interview with Bill Gates for Wired last week was great. Obviously, the COVID-related parts are the most important. But Gates’ thoughts on the perhaps even more timely topic (thanks to the President’s odd timetable), Microsoft’s would-be acquisition of TikTok were fascinating as well:

As you are the technology adviser to Microsoft, I think you can look forward in a few months to fighting this battle yourself when the company owns TikTok.

Yeah, my critique of dance moves will be fantastically value-added for them.

TikTok is more than just dance moves. There’s political content.

I know, I’m kidding. You’re right. Who knows what’s going to happen with that deal. But yes, it’s a poison chalice. Being big in the social media business is no simple game, like the encryption issue.

So are you wary of Microsoft getting into that game?

I mean, this may sound self-serving, but I think that the game being more competitive is probably a good thing. But having Trump kill off the only competitor, it’s pretty bizarre.

Do you understand what rule or regulation the president is invoking to demand that TikTok sell to an American company and then take a cut of the sales price?

I agree that the principle this is proceeding on is singly strange. The cut thing, that’s doubly strange. Anyway, Microsoft will have to deal with all of that.

I mean, using the term “poison chalice” seems like a pretty bold statement from Gates! If he means it literally:

an assignment, award, or honor which is likely to prove a disadvantage or source of problems to the recipient.

If he means it in the Macbeth sense, it’s perhaps even more literal.

Maybe — maybe — he’s just referring to the tricky political content on the app. But it doesn’t read that way. It reads as if he’s… awfully negative about Microsoft doing such a deal. And that’s a big deal! It’s literally a big deal! And Gates is figuratively a big deal! Certainly within Microsoft, still!

When Levy follows up to ask him about that stance more directly, Gates softens a bit, but only by way of misdirection, noting that he thinks there needs to be more competition in the space (implying domination by Facebook, of course). But again, that doesn’t mean that he thinks Microsoft should do this deal, just that TikTok shouldn’t be banned, and implying that Microsoft’s saving of it may be the only alternative.

Again, this is all hardly a resounding endorsement of the deal. And the political complexity on top of it just adds to the headaches, in Gates’ head.

Now, perhaps he just wants to give CEO Satya Nadella and the board (which Gates is no longer on, remember) room to maneuver in their own way without him holding sway over every deal. But again, this is a massive deal, and Gates has to know that any comment he has on the matter will be seen as important with regard to the company he built. He could have couched his thoughts more, but he chose not to. Which, again, seems to imply quite a bit.

This entire deal continues to feel off in a number of ways. And while it’s seemingly evolving to make a bit more sense (taking over TikTok for the entire world, rather than just four countries, certainly makes more sense), there are other things unfolding which make even less sense. And Microsoft is treading on dangerous political ground here, to say the least.

To say more, they should be ashamed of going along with the whole paying-the-Treasure charade. Or, to use Gates parlance, it’s “doubly strange”.

In a way, this feels almost more like a Steve Ballmer deal rather than a Satya Nadella one. Ballmer, of course, was able to milk Microsoft for profits in fantastic new ways during his tenure as CEO. But the market viewed it as more or less of a ‘lost decade’, which in hindsight, feels correct. Nadella has turned that around in spectacular fashion, of course. And that’s perhaps what’s so surprising here: Nadella has added $1T to Microsoft’s market cap, he doesn’t have to do this deal to prove anything. It feels like an overreach.

Perhaps he feels as if it’s Microsoft’s path back into consumer (Xbox aside) in a meaningful way. Or perhaps more importantly, back into mobile. Or maybe he just sees a deal that he knows Microsoft is uniquely positioned to pull off and wants to take advantage of that opportunity.

But again, like Gates, I don’t know. Something about it feels a bit like Ballmer’s ill-fated attempt to buy Yahoo — which perhaps would have sunk both companies, in hindsight. Or the Nokia deal, which was a shockingly fast total write-down. But even that was “only” $7B. If this is really $30B or $40B or more… There’s a lot at stake here!

But here upon this bank and shoal of time,
We’d jump the life to come. But in these cases
We still have judgement here, that we but teach
Bloody instructions which, being taught, return
To plague th’inventor. This even-handed justice
Commends th’ingredience of our poisoned chalice
To our own lips.

— Macbeth, Act 1 Scene 7


Microsoft’s Poisoned Chalice was originally published in 500ish on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Microsoft’s Poisoned Chalice


This post is by M.G. Siegler from 500ish - Medium

Bill Gates sure seems to feel strongly about that TikTok deal…

Photo by Matt Riches on Unsplash

Like seemingly everyone on the internet, I thought Steven Levy’s interview with Bill Gates for Wired last week was great. Obviously, the COVID-related parts are the most important. But Gates’ thoughts on the perhaps even more timely topic (thanks to the President’s odd timetable), Microsoft’s would-be acquisition of TikTok were fascinating as well:

As you are the technology adviser to Microsoft, I think you can look forward in a few months to fighting this battle yourself when the company owns TikTok.

Yeah, my critique of dance moves will be fantastically value-added for them.

TikTok is more than just dance moves. There’s political content.

I know, I’m kidding. You’re right. Who knows what’s going to happen with that deal. But yes, it’s a poison chalice. Being big in the social media business is no simple game, like the encryption issue.

So are you wary of Microsoft getting into that game?

I mean, this may sound self-serving, but I think that the game being more competitive is probably a good thing. But having Trump kill off the only competitor, it’s pretty bizarre.

Do you understand what rule or regulation the president is invoking to demand that TikTok sell to an American company and then take a cut of the sales price?

I agree that the principle this is proceeding on is singly strange. The cut thing, that’s doubly strange. Anyway, Microsoft will have to deal with all of that.

I mean, using the term “poison chalice” seems like a pretty bold statement from Gates! If he means it literally:

an assignment, award, or honor which is likely to prove a disadvantage or source of problems to the recipient.

If he means it in the Macbeth sense, it’s perhaps even more literal.

Maybe — maybe — he’s just referring to the tricky political content on the app. But it doesn’t read that way. It reads as if he’s… awfully negative about Microsoft doing such a deal. And that’s a big deal! It’s literally a big deal! And Gates is figuratively a big deal! Certainly within Microsoft, still!

When Levy follows up to ask him about that stance more directly, Gates softens a bit, but only by way of misdirection, noting that he thinks there needs to be more competition in the space (implying domination by Facebook, of course). But again, that doesn’t mean that he thinks Microsoft should do this deal, just that TikTok shouldn’t be banned, and implying that Microsoft’s saving of it may be the only alternative.

Again, this is all hardly a resounding endorsement of the deal. And the political complexity on top of it just adds to the headaches, in Gates’ head.

Now, perhaps he just wants to give CEO Satya Nadella and the board (which Gates is no longer on, remember) room to maneuver in their own way without him holding sway over every deal. But again, this is a massive deal, and Gates has to know that any comment he has on the matter will be seen as important with regard to the company he built. He could have couched his thoughts more, but he chose not to. Which, again, seems to imply quite a bit.

This entire deal continues to feel off in a number of ways. And while it’s seemingly evolving to make a bit more sense (taking over TikTok for the entire world, rather than just four countries, certainly makes more sense), there are other things unfolding which make even less sense.¹ And Microsoft is treading on dangerous political ground here, to say the least.

To say more, they should be ashamed of going along with the whole paying-the-Treasury charade. Or, to use Gates parlance, it’s “doubly strange”.

In a way, this feels almost more like a Steve Ballmer deal rather than a Satya Nadella one. Ballmer, of course, was able to milk Microsoft for profits in fantastic new ways during his tenure as CEO. But the market viewed it as more or less of a ‘lost decade’, which in hindsight, feels correct.² Nadella has turned that around in spectacular fashion, of course. And that’s perhaps what’s so surprising here: Nadella has added $1T to Microsoft’s market cap, he doesn’t have to do this deal to prove anything. It feels like an overreach.

Perhaps he feels as if it’s Microsoft’s path back into consumer (Xbox aside) in a meaningful way. Or perhaps more importantly, back into mobile. Or maybe he just sees a deal that he knows Microsoft is uniquely positioned to pull off and wants to take advantage of that opportunity.

But again, like Gates, I don’t know. Something about it feels a bit like Ballmer’s ill-fated attempt to buy Yahoo — which perhaps would have sunk both companies, in hindsight. Or the Nokia deal, which was a shockingly fast total write-down. But even that was “only” $7B. If this is really $30B or $40B or more… There’s a lot at stake here!³

But here upon this bank and shoal of time,
We’d jump the life to come. But in these cases
We still have judgement here, that we but teach
Bloody instructions which, being taught, return
To plague th’inventor. This even-handed justice
Commends th’ingredience of our poisoned chalice
To our own lips.

— Macbeth, Act 1 Scene 7

¹ And then there’s the Twitter twist here. Because there always has to be a Twitter twist, especially when Donald Trump is involved, right? I actually think a Twitter/TikTok tie-up makes some sense if Twitter had the means to pull it off. Which they do not. And, of course, there’s the matter of Twitter having bought TikTok’s spiratual successor, Vine, only to kill it off for no good reason other than to… save costs.

² To give Ballmer some credit, he did allow Microsoft to invest in (it seems as if Kevin Johnson spearheaded it) that hot consumer product of yore: Facebook. At a $15B valuation — a massive win which was, not so obvious to some at the time.

³ Again, to say nothing of the ethics — which may ultimately prove to be the true misstep.


Microsoft’s Poisoned Chalice was originally published in 500ish on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg joins centibillionaire club


This post is curated by Keith Teare. It was written by Mark Sweney. The original is [linked here]

The 36-year-old follows Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates as fortune passes $100bn for first time

Mark Zuckerberg’s fortune has passed $100bn (£76bn) for the first time, adding him to an exclusive club of the world’s centibillionaires, after Facebook’s shares surged on news it is to launch a rival to the video-sharing app TikTok.

Facebook announced the US rollout of Instagram Reels, its answer to the Chinese app TikTok, as the US president, Donald Trump, issued bans on American companies transacting with its parent company, ByteDance, and Tencent, which owns the WeChat messaging service.

Continue reading…

[04.24.2020] SIGNALS


This post is by Om Malik from On my Om

Here are some stories that I found interesting and will be worth reading.

The first modern pandemic and the scientific advances we need to stop COVID-19: Bill Gates lays out the strategy and makes an excellent case for listening to science and logic. Of course, we all have to live with the irrationality of politics and presidential elections.

The Big WiFI Upgrade: 6GHz WiFi is coming soon and it will be the first real big upgrade in two decades. It could be a reason to be cheerful about the addition of the 6GHz wireless band to the current 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands.

Will the Internet Economy crash with the real economy in the 2020s?Good question. What do you folks think?

The Kind of iPad Keyboard Mountain: Craig Mod writes a definitive first impression of the new keyboard for the iPad. It is the only one you should read – hell it is so long it is the only one you can read – but like most reviewers, iPad is not part of his permanent daily workflow, and like many of the regular Apple reviewers, he is primarily a laptop guy.

The Apple Watch, Five Years Later: The team from Hodinkee takes a look at the Apple Watch and its impact. I am a big fan of the watch – if you don’t think of it as a watch. Bonus link: A conversation with Jony Ive. (PS: I have a special episode of Stuck@Om coming soon on Apple Watch soon. Stay tuned.)

PS: My friends at Dispatch have made a face-mask and all proceeds are being donated to Bay Area non-profits. Let’s support them.

Gates, Allen & Yesterday’s Terabyte

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates wrote a heartfelt eulogy for his co-founder, Paul Allen, who passed away (earlier this month.) The eulogy has since been reprinted in The Wall Street Journal and The Atlantic and has been widely covered in other media outlets. He wrote:

Paul foresaw that computers would change the world. Even in high school, before any of us knew what a personal computer was, he was predicting that computer chips would get super-powerful and would eventually give rise to a whole new industry. That insight of his was the cornerstone of everything we did together.

In 2011, Paul Allen released his book, Ideas Man, he noted a particular incident in the book where Steve Ballmer (then Microsoft CEO) and Gates were deep in conversation when Allen walked in on them.

They were bemoaning my recent lack of production and discussing how they might dilute my Microsoft Continue reading “Gates, Allen & Yesterday’s Terabyte”

Reid Hoffman, Bill Gates, Sam Altman invest $30 million in Change.org

 LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman announced today that he’s making a big bet on Change.org, the site for social justice petitions. Hoffman is leading a $30 million round, with other investors including big names like Bill Gates and Y Combinator president Sam Altman.
“Change.org, the global hub for collective action, is a crucial democratizing force in this era of growing civic… Read More

Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and 18 others commit $1 billion to new cleantech fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures

Series of EPIC images showing the moon’s shadow move across the Earth during a total solar eclipse / Images courtesy of NASA/NOA Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Vinod Khosla, Jack Ma, John Doerr and 15 other high-profile investors have formed a new venture firm, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, that will pour at least $1 billion into cleantech companies over the next 20 years. The firm’s goal, according to its own website will be: “to provide everyone in the world with access to reliable, affordable power, food,… Read More

7 Stories to read this weekend (January 9)

And just like that, the new year is nine days old. I guess, when you are having fun, you don’t notice how quickly time flies. It was fun to watch CES from afar. I think of it as a “consensus electronics show” and very few products showcased there have a real long term impact on the marketplace. Brian Chen’s piece is a pretty good wrap of what was important, so find time
to read that and then turn you attention to these 7 recommendations:

The Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative May Be More Important Than Facebook

zuck1 The first millennial CEO is leading the end of “two-pocket thinking” Read More

Investors Back Mazlo for Life Coaches in Spirit of Guru Abraham Maslow

Tim Kilgallon, co-founder and chief executive of Mazlo.
Mazlo

It is no small secret that everyone from major recording artists to captains of industry have looked to outside inspiration to reach the unreachable.

Think The Beatles and a spiritual journey to India to return with a new sound and platinum albums. Or Apple Inc. founder Steve Jobs does Buddhism and a next act in iPhones to form the greatest corporate turnaround in history. Or name any number of Wall Street titans who have turned to life coach guru Tony Robbins for a little extra personal business mojo.

What these camps have in common is a connection to what is known as the self-actualization movement.

The movement, founded by American psychologist Abraham Maslow, touched off a 1960s generation aiming to expand their potential in a self-actualization that went on for decades. The West Coast, including the San Francisco Bay Area, was Continue reading “Investors Back Mazlo for Life Coaches in Spirit of Guru Abraham Maslow”

Amid Investor Thirst, Ripple Foods Brews Up Dairy-Free Milk

Investor appetite continues for food startups.

Ripple Foods has grabbed the attention of food entrepreneurs and venture firms for its development on dairy-free milk, marking the latest in a run of food investments.

Emeryville, Calif.-based Ripple Foods, formed by Adam Lowry and Neil Renninger, is working on a milk-like drink made from plants that it says offers more protein than almond- or rice-based milk.

“We’re going after the alternative dairy market,” said Mr. Renninger. “Right now there aren’t any real quality products out there in the alternative dairy space.”

Amid an investor feeding frenzy for food startups, Ripple Foods has picked up $13.6 million in Series A funding, The Wall Street Journal has learned.

There’s a growing arena of companies aiming to make healthier food alternatives as investments in food and beverages companies have soared in the past year. The moves underscore an influx of technology innovation Continue reading “Amid Investor Thirst, Ripple Foods Brews Up Dairy-Free Milk”

Bill Gates-held Firm Backs Delos Living and its Human Wellness Standard

 

Delos Living Founder Paul Scialla aims to create a new standard for healthy indoor environments
Evan Joseph Images

With air and water that has been specially filtered and lighting tuned to the body’s circadian rhythms, Delos Living LLC isn’t your typical real-estate company.

The New York-based company, which counts holistic health expert Deepak Chopra and environmental advocate and actor Leonardo DiCaprio among its advisers, has now secured $108 million from a few high-profile private investors, The Wall Street Journal has learned.

Bill Gates’s holding company Cascade Investment LLC. and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeffrey Vinik co-led the round, with participation from China-based Sino Ocean Land.

The infusion is the first such institutional round for Delos, which aims to do with its WELL standard for human health what LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, certification is doing for the environment. Since 2000, LEED certification has functioned as an Continue reading “Bill Gates-held Firm Backs Delos Living and its Human Wellness Standard”

“Bill Gates got it immediately. It took Andy Grove 10 years to figure it out, and 20 years for Steve…”

“Bill Gates got it immediately. It took Andy Grove 10 years to figure it out, and 20 years for Steve Jobs.”

David B. Yoffie, a professor at the Harvard Business School, on the importance of building platforms, not just products.

“Today though, I am thinking much more about Microsoft’s future than its past. I believe…”

“Today though, I am thinking much more about Microsoft’s future than its past. I believe computing will evolve faster in the next 10 years than it ever has before.”

Bill Gates, in his letter to Microsoft on its 40th anniversary.

“That is a really crack team that bonded with each other in toughness. I mean, you can point to every…”

“That is a really crack team that bonded with each other in toughness. I mean, you can point to every member of that team and say, ‘Okay, he earned his pay, he earned his pay, he earned his pay.’ There’s no weakness in that team.”

Bill Gates, on the Apple executive core Steve Jobs built.