Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp., at a tech conference in Bengaluru, India, on February 25, 2020. Photo: Bloomberg
The Briefing
Microsoft Markets Enterprise

Microsoft’s Focus Gets Fuzzier: The Information’s Tech Briefing

Photo: Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp., at a tech conference in Bengaluru, India, on February 25, 2020. Photo: Bloomberg

A few months after Microsoft’s board named Satya Nadella CEO of the company in 2014, Nadella sent a 3,100-word memo to the tech giant’s employees describing what he saw as Microsoft’s “soul” and “unique core.” “Microsoft is the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world,” he wrote. “We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more.” 

Nadella’s vision of the soul of Microsoft, which has been crucial to the company’s revival over the past few years, is what makes his decision to pursue an acquisition of TikTok in the U.S. and other countries so puzzling. Despite its many charms as a source of entertainment—or maybe because of them—TikTok is on no one’s list of great productivity apps. While it’s true that Nadella said in his memo that there was room enough inside Microsoft for consumer businesses like Xbox, buying a big chunk of TikTok would significantly escalate the company’s investments outside its core. 

Perhaps Nadella believes times have changed and will soon describe a new vision for Microsoft’s soul. Or maybe he will make the case that TikTok fits into his productivity-centric vision for Microsoft. One risk, though, is that Microsoft is simply losing focus. That is a habit that led the company into trouble in the past.—Nick Wingfield

Get access to exclusive coverage
Read deeply reported stories from the largest newsroom in tech.
Latest Articles
Profile Media/Telecom Markets
Bourkoff Is Star Media Dealmaker, But Can He Make Shift to Tech?

Aryeh Bourkoff hates wasting time. Rather than checking his overcoat when he goes out to lunch during New York’s frigid winters, the investment banker sometimes asks his assistant to walk with him to the restaurant so she can take his coat with her back to the office. When it is time for him to leave, he summons her to bring it back, say people who know Bourkoff.

Eight years after he ...

Latest Briefs
Variety and Hollywood Reporter Join Forces
DOJ to Send Proposed Changes to Online Liability Shield to Congress
Tesla Shares Fall as Musk’s Battery Updates Disappoint
Stay in the know
Receive a summary of the day's top tech news—distilled into one email.
Access on the go
View stories on our mobile app and tune into our weekly podcast.
Join live video Q&A’s
Deep-dive into topics like startups and autonomous vehicles with our top reporters and other executives.
Enjoy a clutter-free experience
Read without any banner ads.
Startups Microsoft
Tech Execs Are Obsessing Over Note-Taking Apps. We Tested Them Out
Investors are newly enamored of note-taking apps, financing startups like Notion Labs, Coda and Roam Research at high valuations.
Venture Capital Asia
TikTok Valued at Around $60 Billion, As Deal Structure Emerges
Walmart and Oracle are valuing the soon-to-be formed TikTok Global at between $50 billion and $60 billion, according to two people familiar with the deal, as key aspects of one of the most convoluted global tech deals in history take shape.
Exclusive Policy Google
In Ironic Twist, Google’s Pro-Privacy Move Boosted U.S. Antitrust Probe
Google has taken a lot of heat for violating people’s privacy. Now it could get in trouble for trying to protect it.
The Takeaway Media/Telecom Google
Accepting Kickbacks, Publishers Are Playing Into Tech Companies’ Hands
For years, news publishers have been clamoring for Facebook, Google and Apple to pay for the news content that gets distributed through their services.
Venture Capital Startups
Politics Create High-Wire Act for Tech CEOs
In June, after protests against the police killing of George Floyd swept the country, Glenn Kelman, CEO of online real estate brokerage Redfin, wrote an email to his customers in which he committed to doing more to help Black customers find homes in neighborhoods they’ve traditionally been shut out of.
The Briefing
What TikTok’s Future Might Look Like Under Oracle and Walmart: The Information’s Tech Briefing
ByteDance’s hopes of getting President Trump’s approval for its proposed deal with Oracle appear to be dwindling by the day, judging by the blizzard of media reports about the debate going on inside the Trump administration.