Regulators Ask Competitors if Unbundling Teams is Enough

EU antitrust regulators sent a questionnaire to Microsoft’s rivals

Unified CommunicationsLatest News

Published: December 1, 2023

James Stephen

Technology Journalist

EU antitrust regulators have sent a questionnaire to Microsoft’s competitors to find out whether shedding Teams from its Office bundle will level the playing field sufficiently in their eyes.

Back in 2020, Slack accused Microsoft of anticompetitive behaviour. With pressure also coming from the European Union (EU), the technology giant agreed to unbundle Teams from Office 365 in the European Economic Area (EEA), which excludes the United Kingdom following Brexit.

Now, with a questionnaire observed by Reuters, the regulators may be in the process of building a case with a view to breaking up the current Microsoft Office offering further.

In a Microsoft blog post published at the end of August 2023, Nanna-Louise Linde, Vice President, Microsoft European Government Affairs anticipated that the unbundling of Teams would only be the beginning: “We recognize our responsibility as a major technology provider to support a healthy competitive environment.

“We appreciate the clarity that has emerged on several of the concerns from extensive and constructive discussions with the European Commission.

“With the benefit of this clarity, we believe it is important that we start to take meaningful steps to address those concerns.

“We do this not with the sense that this will necessarily resolve all concerns, whether from the Commission or our competitors, but we believe this is a constructive step that can start to lead to immediate and meaningful changes in the market.”

Rivals were reportedly asked by EU regulators to give feedback from customers to find out how their products and services could be used alongside Office, what the costs would be with and without Teams, and eligibility criteria.

Microsoft has pointed back to the blog post quoted above by way of comment, demonstrating its commitment to finding a solution to the EU Commission’s concerns.

In the same post, Microsoft revealed that a Teams-free version of Office would cost two euros less per month, with Teams being able to be purchased separately for five euros per month.

It promised to enhance its existing interoperability resources with both Microsoft 365 and Office 365. As a result, Microsoft believes Salesforce, Zoom, and others will be able to create an integrated experience with Outlook, Exchange, and Teams.

Microsoft also said it will provide new support resources to field questions from customers and independent software vendors (ISVs), such as content that explains the way in which data can be transferred from Teams to another solution.

Moreover, it will “create new mechanisms” to allow third-party solutions to host Office applications, in a similar way to its hosting method utilised in Teams.

‘Office’ Politics

It all began when Microsoft chose to bundle Microsoft Teams with Office 365, replacing Skype for Business. Three years later, Slack filed an official complaint as it saw Microsoft as having established an unfair monopoly on the market by including the massively popular Teams application.

Linde defended Microsoft’s decision to do this in the same post, within a broader acknowledgment of the need for change: “Before offering more details, let me provide some added context.

“We believe that business customers in Europe and around the world expect a modern work solution to include modern communication and collaboration capabilities.

“That’s why, for more than a decade, we have included these capabilities in our business suites, starting with Office Communicator in 2007 and evolving and innovating over the years through Lync, Skype for Business Online, and most recently Microsoft Teams.”

This is not Microsoft’s first encounter with antitrust regulators. It has previously been accused of bundling Internet Explorer with Windows and its attempt to acquire Activision Blizzard was initially blocked by the UK’s CMA.

In September this year, Tom Arbuthnot, Microsoft Teams Expert and Co-Founder of Empowering.Cloud, spoke to UC Today about what will happen following Microsoft’s decision to unbundle Teams from Office.



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