Microsoft could be about to write a fat check to stave off cloud antitrust complaint

'No agreement has been reached,' Euro cloud lobby insists

Microsoft is reportedly preparing to ink a multimillion-euro deal with cloud lobbying group CISPE to make an EU antitrust complaint go away.

The complaint, lodged in November 2022 with the EU's anti-trust team, centers on the cost of running Microsoft wares outside of Azure.

A spokesperson for CISPE acknowledged the latest industry chatter about Microsoft's attempts to resolve issues but the group, which includes AWS in its membership, told The Register:

"Discussions with Microsoft are ongoing, and proposals have been made. However, no agreement has been reached. CISPE remains committed to a principle-based remedy to bring an end to the harmful impact of unfair software licensing practices for all cloud customers seeking to run productivity software in the cloud of their choice."

As exclusively revealed by us in May 2023, Microsoft previously tried to settle the case but CISPE rejected it, branding the offer as "pretty paltry" and "very far short of anything we consent acceptance of." It added at the time: "In principle, we are happy to settle it between us, but we have minimum requirements before we expect negotiations to go forward."

Microsoft's proposals could involve paying a substantial sum to CISPE and its members in return for withdrawing the antitrust complaint or concessions that would negate the need for a lengthy EU investigation into the company's business practices, potentially leading to a substantial fine and demands for change.

A spokesperson at Microsoft told The Register today in an email: "We continue to work constructively with CISPE to resolve concerns raised by European cloud providers."

Microsoft has come under pressure from several quarters over its alleged anti-competitive practices. In addition to the CISPE complaint, Google complained to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2023 over the company's conduct, and the Coalition for Fair Software Licensing (CFSL) also asked the FTC to look into the company.

Microsoft is under increasing scrutiny in the UK too. A working paper from the country's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) noted that Microsoft and AWS dominated UK markets, but while the latter's share by revenue had fallen slightly, the former's had risen. According to the CMA, Microsoft also achieved the highest margins in the UK cloud market.

This year, CISPE blasted Microsoft with an ultimatum over its licensing practices. The issue is that despite some concessions made by the Windows behemoth, Microsoft discounts its software when bundled with Azure cloud services, effectively making it more expensive to run Redmond's code on rival clouds.

Google has described Microsoft's cloud software licensing as a "tax," while AWS has decried the apparent softening of Microsoft's licensing terms. ®

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