Microsoft expects further concessions for Teams amid EC antitrust probe

Despite unbundling video and chat app from Office, Redmond 'committed to find a resolution to regulators' concerns'

Microsoft says it will likely take "additional steps" in a bid to resolve the European Commission antitrust investigation into its bundling of Teams with Office.

The video and chat app was tethered to its Office productivity suite in 2017. By 2020 rival Slack had filed a complaint with the competition police within the European Union, saying Microsoft was abusing its "market dominance to extinguish competition" after it "illegally tied" Teams to the productivity suite.

In August last year, Microsoft confirmed it was unbundling Teams from Office in the EU as regulators began to inspect the accusations, including the allegation that bundling the software hid the true cost of Teams. Another move was made by Microsoft in April when it decided to unbundle the software products globally.

Talking to reporters in Brussels this week, Microsoft President Brad Smith said: "I expect we will take additional steps."

He added: "On Teams, we have done a lot of work, our work isn't yet done. Microsoft is committed to find a resolution to regulators' concerns."

We have asked Microsoft for comment on what those additional steps could be. It confirmed Smith's words but had no further statement to make.

As it stands, customers have a choice to carry on with the bundle; remove Teams from licenses and get the discount; or purchase it as a standalone product.

We have also asked Salesforce-owned Slack to comment.

The concessions Microsoft is making would appear to be positive for Zoom, Slack and other video chat app rivals, yet as Google pointed out last year, giving ground on the strategy is "too little, too late" at this point. Microsoft Teams has 320 million monthly active users worldwide, as of March 2024. Slack had an estimated 35 million daily active users in 2022 (no monthly active user numbers were given), expected to rise to 79 million monthly active users by 2025.

Even if Microsoft does make further changes to the product or its license, it has already amassed a huge user base. And companies including Google and AWS fear Microsoft is employing similar aggressive tactics to the cloud sector, where multiple complaints over Microsoft's software licensing policies were lodged with the EC, including by CISPE.

A Commission spokesperson pointed The Register to confirmation last summer that it had opened a "formal investigation to assess whether Microsoft may have breached EU competition rules by tying or bundling its communication and collaboration product Teams to its popular suites for businesses Office 365 and Microsoft 365."

"The investigation is ongoing," they added. ®

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