Although the online communication tools market has had its fair share of competition even prior to the COVID outbreak, the need for such utilities has seen a meteoric rise with the relatively recent shift to hybrid work trends. Although Microsoft Teams is the software of choice for many firms that are already leveraging Microsoft’s suite of products, there are other competitors such as Slack and Zoom too. Now, it seems like European Union (EU) regulators are looking to investigate Microsoft over some antitrust issues related to Teams.
Reuters has reported that the European Commission (EC) is looking to launch an investigation against Microsoft for purported anti-competitive practices related to its Teams software.
The basis for this scrutiny is a complaint filed by Slack in 2020 in which it stated that bundling Teams with the Microsoft 365 suite of products forces it to be installed on many machines while “hiding the true cost to enterprise customers”. It urged the regulator to force Microsoft to remove Teams from its Microsoft 365 suite and offer it separately at “fair” commercial prices.
At that time, Slack’s Vice President of Communications and Policy Jonathan Prince was quoted as saying:
This is much bigger than Slack versus Microsoft – this is a proxy for two very different philosophies for the future of digital ecosystems, gateways versus gatekeepers. […] Slack offers an open, flexible approach that compounds the threat to Microsoft because it is a gateway to innovative, best-in-class technology that competes with the rest of Microsoft’s stack and gives customers the freedom to build solutions that meet their needs. We want to be the 2% of your software budget that makes the other 98% more valuable; they want 100% of your budget every time.
According to the report, the EC sent out a new set of questionnaires last month, which is a sign that it’s considering ramping up its investigation against Microsoft. Two sources familiar with the matter noted that:
- The Commission is looking at (Microsoft’s) interoperability and bundling but more detailed this time. They are looking for information that allows them to define remedies.
- They are preparing the ground for an investigation.
This is not the first time Slack and Microsoft have clashed. At one point, Microsoft even considered acquiring Slack for $8 billion but ended up launching Teams itself. Both companies have thrown shade at each other from time to time. Slack’s CEO once said that he doesn’t see Teams as a threat, while Microsoft noted that “little companies (like Slack) come and go”, and that the Redmond tech giant has it all covered.
Either way, this would not be a good time for Microsoft to be engaged in yet another antitrust investigation. It’s already being probed by European regulators over its $69 billion proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard.