Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Ignore the Twitter Buyout Rumors: Here Are the Facts in Five Beyoncé-Madonna-Approved Steps


Was it more than a month ago that Google was rumored to be in “late-stage negotiations to acquire Twitter”?

Not so much late-stage, I guess, with a gestation period that seems interminable (and BoomTown has been there, so can speak from experience about interminable pregnancies).

In fact, I’m still waiting for the Google (GOOG) takeover news floated inaccurately back then to cross our desk at All Things Digital HQ, although it’s more likely Godot will show up first.

So I guess it should come as no surprise that it was time to fob yet another rumor that yet another moneybags of a company–this time, Apple (AAPL)–is in “late-stage negotiations to buy Twitter.”

You could set your broken-but-right-twice-a-day clock by it, in fact.

But despite very serious interest in Twitter by every company that can afford considering such a thing, getting across that late-stage line would require major investors in the microblogging service to be involved, and they are not as yet.

In fact, both Twitter co-founders, Evan Williams and Biz Stone, are in New York today to attend the 2009 “Time 100” dinner, which fetes this year’s influential people honorees selected by the magazine. Which they are.

So, if they are in serious talks with Apple, they better grab that award and head on home tout de suite.

In point of fact, talks with Facebook last year were actually the only truly deep sale discussions that Twitter has been involved in, and those went south.

Oh, the very notion of Apple and Twitter is a Techmeme dream-ticket, sure to be chewed over for days on end. (I once considered doing a post that just said “AppleTwitterAppleTwitterAppleTwitter…” for 1,000 words to see how much idiotic traffic I would get.)

But given that it is too good to be true for now, rather than be on the edge of your seat about all these endless, alleged late-stage high jinks, here is a five-step list to cut out and keep when the rumors of “late-stage negotiations” with Microsoft (MSFT), News Corp. (NWS), Verizon (VZ), Yahoo (YHOO), Time Warner (TWX) online unit AOL, Comcast (CMCSA), Cisco (CSCO) and more inevitably show up.


1.) Belle of the Geek Ball

Everyone is indeed actually interested in buying Twitter and each has expressed a proper level of interest to the company’s execs–especially to over-contacted CEO Williams–about said interest.

And, because this is America, a bid for Twitter could come at any time and in any amount.

That’s why Apple has indeed said hello. Why Microsoft’s business development team has been busy formulating a valuation. Why Google’s M&A guy, David Lawee, has called into Twitter’s HQ many times with kind expressions of desire. And why News Corp. execs, including Rupert Murdoch himself, have murmured tweet nothings to the Twitter team.

Please note: This is not the same thing as “late-stage negotiations.” Not at all; so don’t believe such things, as you will see this one coming down the pike for miles (see Step #4 below).

If there ever were an Apple deal to be done, it would not be living in some tidy vacuum.

For example, does one imagine Google CEO Eric Schmidt–who is on the Apple board, much to the FTC’s chagrin, it seems–would decline to enter the fray? Oh, he’d be up to his conflicted eyebrows in it at this point.

(Full disclosure: ATD is also considering making a bid for Twitter, but only if I get to name who is called Chief Twit.)

2.) We Feel Pretty, Oh So Pretty

Twitter’s Williams, as well as Stone, do not really want to sell just yet, given the huge traffic over the last year, goosed even further by the whole Oprah-Ashton Kutcher axis of Tweetvil.

Twitter is growing and growing and growing. Does that mean it has peaked or is just crossing over into the mainstream?

I would say the latter and so would its investors and execs.

I have done a lot of reporting and have found that most of them would like a chance to ride this rocket ship and see if they can prevent it from being a shooting star by figuring out some viable, innovative and lucrative business plan.

“Twitter really could make a lot of money,” said one investor. “And we are not just making that up either.”

Well, phew, because I have been a little worried about that.


3.) We’re Living in a Material World, and I Am a Material Girl

That said, as Madonna sings, a pile of cash is a pile of cash and if one of the suitors makes a big move with $600 million or more in cash, it would be hard for Twitter to completely ignore such an offering.

But, in any case, there will be no late-stage negotiations with one player.

Instead, an epic free-for-all wrestling match to the death would break out among all of them, especially Google and Microsoft.

This will be great for me and all the other tech writers as it will be ugly, competitive and tailor-made for breathless reporting.

Google is the likely winner here, although Microsoft is quite intent on the possibilities of integrating Twitter technology with its business offerings.

Someone will, I can predict with certainty, lose an eye.


4.) All the Single Ladies…Cuz if You Liked It, Then You Should Have Put a Ring on It

And, even with that kind of offer–which I would take in a New York minute, as would some Twitter investors–there is a sense when you talk to Twitter’s founders and investors that they truly believe they are onto some very important interactive communications paradigm shift in the Internet arena with their start-up.

I would have to agree given that the real-time and status-update concepts that Twitter has perfectly touched on are a very important one.

Thus, Twitter would prefer to remain independent for now.

Whether Twitter will prevail or not is never assured, but it would be really a shame if it gave up before the story was over.


5.) And They Lived Happily Ever After

Let’s be honest: There is no real downside here for Twitter.

If the service turns out to be be a flash in the pan and it is not sold for big bucks, Twitter still has heralded a very important new era in the digital industry.

And, if it grows like crazy even more, better still.

Also, Stone got to go on “The Colbert Report” and Williams on “Oprah.”

Best of all, in a shameless plug, they will both be captive on stage with Walt Mossberg and me at the seventh D: All Things Digital conference exactly three weeks from today, where we can ask them about all this and more.

So, I am thrilled too.

Who says there are no happy endings?

Until that D7 interview, here is my recent video with Williams and Stone at Twitter’s funky San Francisco HQ: