Only EU can help us, pleads Slack as it slings competition complaint against Microsoft Teams

Behold the ghost of Browser Wars past


Updated From the department of "if you can't beat 'em..." comes the inevitable sueball slung by Slack over Microsoft's bundling of Teams into its Office behemoth.

A competition complaint has been filed against Microsoft before the European Commission.

Microsoft's collaboration platform, Teams, has been enjoying impressive growth, hitting 75 million users in the last set of published figures, and the company used this week's Inspire event to tease partners with more features to tempt customers.

For its part, Slack has struggled to trim its operating losses even as revenues have soared and its customer count grew. In June it announced "record" first quarter fiscal year 2021 results. The total revenue of $201.7m was 50 per cent up year on year while its GAAP operating loss stood at $76.2m.

Back in 2016, Slack published a somewhat patronising piece welcoming Microsoft to collaboration corner. It ended with a statement acknowledging that the Windows giant would be a worthy competitor and that it was sure Microsoft would "come up with a couple of new ideas on your own too."

"And we'll be right there, ready."

As will the lawyers, it seems.

The years since have been a little tough as Microsoft has continued to enhance its competing product. The arrival of a freebie version of Teams has made things particularly challenging as well as the inclusion of the improving Slack-for-suits platform in its near ubiquitous Office suite.

Both Slack and Microsoft have also surfed the wave of remote working arising from the current pandemic.

"We're confident that we win on the merits of our product," said Jonathan Prince, vice president of Communications and Policy at Slack, "but," he alleged, "we can't ignore illegal behavior that deprives customers of access to the tools and solutions they want."

Prince went on to claim that Slack threatened Microsoft's hold on business email, which in turn meant a threat to the Windows giant's grip on enterprise software.

David Schellhase, general counsel at Slack, asked for the EU to take on the role of referee and conjured the spectre of decades past. "Microsoft is reverting to past behavior," he alleged. "They created a weak, copycat product and tied it to their dominant Office product, force installing it and blocking its removal, a carbon copy of their illegal behavior during the 'browser wars.'"

Schellhase optimistically called for the European Commission "to take swift action."

The complaint will now be reviewed before the commission decides if action needs to be taken.

The Reg has contacted Microsoft to get its take on the matter, but it has yet to comment.

While we wait for a response, we'd suggest breaking out the popcorn and looking forward to the possibility of a Messaging Menu or Collaboration Chooser (in a touching tribute to the Browser Ballot of old) or the sight of a Microsoft engineer taking a chainsaw to Office in order to excise Teams from the platform. ®

Updated at 15:24 UTC to add:

A Microsoft spokesperson commented to El Reg: "We created Teams to combine the ability to collaborate with the ability to connect via video, because that’s what people want.

"With COVID-19, the market has embraced Teams in record numbers while Slack suffered from its absence of video-conferencing. We’re committed to offering customers not only the best of new innovation, but a wide variety of choice in how they purchase and use the product. "We look forward to providing additional information to the European Commission and answering any questions they may have.”

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