Where are EU going with that Teams antitrust probe? Microsoft wants a word
Software behemoth reportedly wants a chat with the regulators – on the other side of the pond this time
Updated Microsoft, already under the European Union's microscope for its $69 billion bid for game maker Activision Blizzard, reportedly wants to talk to regulators there to try to see off legal action against Teams based on an antitrust complaint levied two years ago by rival Slack.
Slack, the workspace messaging app now owned by Salesforce, filed a complaint with the European Union in 2020 accusing Microsoft of illegally bundling the Teams chat and video collaboration platform with the Office suite.
Given how ubiquitous Office is in the enterprise space, bundling Teams would give Microsoft an unfair advantage in the booming collaboration space, according to Slack, echoing similar complaints lodged against the giant software maker over the past three decades.
Citing unnamed sources close to the issue, Reuters reported that Microsoft officials hope to resolve the EU's antitrust concerns before a formal investigation is launched and that the company has offered a list of initial concessions.
The Register has asked Microsoft for comment and will update this story if the company responds.
The global collaboration space is expanding rapidly as companies address the needs of a highly distributed workforce that has come out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies like Microsoft – which introduced Teams in 2017 – Zoom, and Cisco saw the number of users and revenue skyrocket in 2020 and 2021 as enterprises sent workers home in hopes of slowing the virus' spread.
IDC said revenue in the second quarter for the worldwide unified communications and collaboration (UCC) market jumped year-over-year by 14 percent, to $14.8 billion. Microsoft's Q2 UCC revenue hit $5.7 billion, up 22.7 percent.
Reuters noted that while the pandemic boosted the collaboration businesses of Microsoft and others, Slack was hurt by its lack of a video-conferencing feature.
EU regulators reportedly have taken steps toward what would be a full-blown antitrust investigation. In October 2021, they sent questionnaires to Microsoft rivals asking whether the company's bundling of its products made it more difficult to compete in terms of technology and costs.
Two months ago, they sent out another set of questionnaires about interoperability and bundling.
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Microsoft hopes to ward off a formal investigation through cooperation. The company is no stranger to the European Commission. The company reportedly has paid $2.3 billion in fines over the past decade for cases involving the tying together of products and other business practices.
The EC in November launched an antitrust investigation into Microsoft's bid for Activision Blizzard – which makes such popular games as Call of Duty and World of Warcraft for the vendor's Xbox console – and despite promises to make such games available on rival platforms like Sony's PlayStation and Nintendo's Switch, the US Federal Trade Commission last week sued to block the acquisition.
Microsoft also faces antitrust complaints related to its cloud computing business and for bundling its OneDrive cloud storage service with Windows.
The row over allegedly tying Teams with Office comes as Microsoft prepares a range of new capabilities for Teams, including enabling Outlook users to spin up a Teams chat in the email client. Scheduled for general availability in March 2023, the feature will enable Outlook users to send a message or review a chat without having to open up Teams, according to an entry in the Microsoft 365 Roadmap.
Starting in February 2023, Outlook users will see Teams messages and files shared in Teams conversations in their search results. ®
Updated to add
Microsoft has told The Register it has no comment on the issue.