The European Commission has launched an investigation into Microsoft's practice of bundling its Teams software with Office 365, amid growing concerns of possible anti-competitive behavior. The announcement was made on Thursday, signaling a potential clash between the software giant and European officials over fair market practices.
A Close Tangle of Software and Concerns Microsoft's approach of packaging Teams — its popular collaboration tool — with its deeply rooted productivity suite (featuring prominent applications like Word and Outlook) has raised eyebrows among the officials.
They speculate that such a packaging strategy could be an anti-competitive move, effectively preventing customers from considering alternative collaboration tools. The European Commission stated in its press release, "These practices may constitute anti-competitive tying or bundling and prevent suppliers of other communication and collaboration tools from competing." This, in essence, could potentially stifle competition, creating a less diverse market for productivity and collaboration tools.
Microsoft Responds, As EU Looks Ahead In response to the European Commission's statement, Microsoft confirmed that they are cooperating fully with the investigation. "We respect the European Commission’s work on this case and take our own responsibilities very seriously,” commented a Microsoft spokesperson.
They further added, “We will continue to cooperate with the Commission and remain committed to finding solutions that will address its concerns”. Meanwhile, EU spokesperson Arianna Podesta, while addressing the press, highlighted that the Commission isn't rushing into proposing solutions or commitments from Microsoft.
Podesta pointed out that the priority is to first establish if indeed there has been a breach of antitrust regulations. Clash of Ecosystem Philosophies The investigation is particularly significant in the backdrop of an ongoing debate about the nature of digital ecosystems.
A Slack executive had earlier contended that Microsoft's practice of selling a closed ecosystem contrasts sharply with Slack's more flexible approach. Jonathan Prince, Slack’s VP of Communications and Policy, suggested that this is essentially a face-off between two divergent philosophies for the future of digital ecosystems — 'gateways versus gatekeepers'
While gateways offer more freedom to mix and match services, gatekeepers, as Prince suggests, seem to limit choice.