EU Commission Turns Antitrust Eye on Microsoft Teams

Photo by Mika Baumeister via Unsplash

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Microsoft may have jumped out of the Activision/Blizzard frying pan right into the Teams fire.

The Financial Times reported on Monday that the European Commission is lining up an antitrust investigation into Microsoft’s Teams workplace messaging platform. Beginning as early as next week, the probe would be the first time the EU has investigated Bill Gates’ baby in 15 years, and suggests Microsoft is finally being drawn into the regulatory black hole of Big Tech.

The Ominous Knock Brush

Microsoft was last hauled before the European Commission in 2008, when computers using Windows software came with the Internet Explorer (now ‘Edge’) browser automatically installed. Since then, Microsoft has largely managed to avoid the white-hot regulatory gaze that has been fixed on the FAANG companies. But Microsoft has lately reappeared on regulators’ radar, especially when it agreed to buy video game company Activision Blizzard for $69 billion. The US FTC tried to block the deal, but Microsoft appears to be on track for victory as a judge dismissed the FTC’s case as well as the agency’s subsequent appeal.

Game console rival Sony, which had vehemently opposed the acquisition, also lowered its objections. Meanwhile, a workaday rival has stoked the EU’s concerns around Microsoft Teams:

  • Slack, the workplace messaging company whose woodblock-like notifications probably haunt your dreams, kicked off the scrutiny in 2020 after it complained that Microsoft had automatically been enrolling customers in Teams, a practice which Microsoft halted this April, per the FT. Sounds a bit 2008-y, doesn’t it?
  • Sources told the FT that while Microsoft has tried to avoid getting hit with a formal investigation over Teams, it’s now “very unlikely” to escape one. Still, it managed to avert disaster with Activision Blizzard, so maybe there’s time to turn the tables.

Pass the Tongs: In Norwegian, the idiom “to step in the salad” means you’ve made a mistake or faux pas. Meta is finding itself up to its neck in lettuce, as Norway is threatening to ban Facebook and Instagram inside the country starting in August unless they stop showing users personalized ads that use location data and records of a user’s online activity, Politico reported Monday. Norway’s population of 5.5 million doesn’t represent a huge slice of Meta’s multi-billion-strong usership, but the ban would set an uncomfortable regulatory precedent.