With boundless energy Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella took to the stage in Atlanta on Monday to share the many ways his company plans to incorporate artificial intelligence into its products and services.
There was facial recognition for Uber drivers (to ensure their identity). There was augmented reality for Lowe’s customers (to ensure marital happiness during the home renovation process). He even revealed that Microsoft had wooed Adobe to its Azure cloud, a customer coup that put Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen onstage with him, two Hyderabad-born Fortune 1000 CEOs done good.
But the rest of the Internet didn’t care. It was too busy Tweeting about a CNBC report suggesting that Microsoft and Disney were duking it out to buy Twitter (TWTR), that most beleaguered of social networks. Microsoft would not comment on the deal when I asked. There are some reasons why such a deal would make sense. But others suggest it’s foolish.
It was only three months ago that Microsoft (MSFT) surprised many by acquiring LinkedIn (LNKD) for $26.2 billion in cash. Critics quibbled over the price, far and away the largest acquisition for the Seattle-based giant. But the logic—that LinkedIn was the professional network that Microsoft could easily integrate into its business-minded product suite—was sound.
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Twitter’s benefits to Microsoft are more elusive. The Jack Dorsey-led service is decidedly more consumer-oriented than LinkedIn. Its community and data are less relevant. And though Twitter has demonstrated a particular knack for customer service applications—why else use it but to holler at the moon?—it’s hard to believe Microsoft might consider paying $20 billion (excluding a premium) for something redundant at best and ill-fitting at worst.
A Disney (DIS) deal is equally as perplexing, of course—why a company that specializes in creating content would entertain a platform is beyond me.
But if there is one thing that’s certain, it’s that Microsoft isn’t waiting around to find out. As the news broke, CEO Nadella was backstage in Atlanta, running through the slides of his AI-themed keynote one more time. His social network of interest was clear: the 22,000 IT pros assembled beyond the stage curtain.