Microsoft has announced that it will allow business customers in Europe to buy its video and chat app Teams separately from its Office software, starting from October 1, 2023.
This decision was made in response to the European Union’s antitrust investigation into Microsoft’s bundling of Teams with other Office products, which was launched in July 2023 following a complaint by Slack.
Teams is a cloud-based platform that allows users to communicate and collaborate through chat, voice, video, and file sharing. It competes with other similar products such as Slack, Zoom, Google Meet, and Cisco Webex. Microsoft has been offering Teams as part of its Office 365 (now Microsoft 365) subscription service, which also includes popular applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. According to Microsoft, Teams has more than 250 million monthly active users as of June 2023.
Slack, which was acquired by Salesforce in December 2020 for $27.7 billion, filed a complaint with the European Commission in July 2020, accusing Microsoft of abusing its market dominance and illegally tying Teams to Office 365. Slack claimed that Microsoft was forcing millions of users to install Teams and making it difficult for them to remove it or choose other options. Slack also alleged that Microsoft was using its market power to prevent fair competition and innovation in the enterprise communication market.
The European Commission opened a formal antitrust investigation into Microsoft’s practices in July 2023, saying that it would examine whether Microsoft violated EU competition rules by imposing unfair conditions on the use of Teams. The Commission said that it would also look into the possible effects of the integration of Teams with other Office products on the market for online communication services.
Microsoft said that it respects the Commission’s process and will cooperate fully with the investigation. The company also said that it is committed to offering customers choice and flexibility in how they use its products and services. As part of this commitment, Microsoft said that it will make Teams available as a standalone product for business customers in Europe, allowing them to purchase it without having to buy the entire Office suite. Microsoft also said that it will make it easier for other companies to integrate their products with Microsoft 365, enabling more interoperability and innovation in the cloud .
Microsoft’s move to offer Teams separately from Office could be seen as a way to appease the regulators and avoid potential fines or sanctions. However, it is not clear how much impact this will have on the competitive landscape of the online communication market, as Microsoft still has a strong advantage over its rivals due to its large user base and brand recognition. Moreover, some analysts have argued that bundling Teams with Office is not necessarily anti-competitive, as it provides value and convenience for customers who want a comprehensive and integrated solution for their work needs.
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