Microsoft has agreed to stop bundling its Teams remote collaboration software with its Office productivity suite, according to Financial Times. The company’s move attempts to head off an official EU antitrust investigation as it deals with its most significant regulatory concerns in over a decade.
FT’s sources say companies will eventually be able to buy Office with or without Teams installed, “but the mechanism on how to do this remains unclear.” Talks with EU regulators are reportedly ongoing, and “a deal is not certain.” Microsoft told FT, “We are mindful of our responsibilities in the EU as a major technology company. We continue to engage cooperatively with the commission in its investigation and are open to pragmatic solutions that address its concerns and serve customers well.”
Competing remote-work platform Slack, now owned by Salesforce, complained to EU regulators in 2020, asking officials to make Microsoft sell Teams separately from its ubiquitous Office suite. Slack’s general counsel said at the time, “We’re asking the EU to be a neutral referee, examine the facts and enforce the law.”
Microsoft is facing its first regulatory issues in a decade. The company agreed to a settlement with the European Commission in 2009, agreeing to offer European customers a choice of web browsers; it was then fined €561 million in 2013 for failing to adhere to that consistently. Of course, its most famous antitrust shakeup came around the turn of the millennium when it was initially forced to break up into two companies, a ruling later overturned by an appeals court. Microsoft and the DOJ settled in 2001, agreeing to restrictions like sharing APIs with third-party developers and letting PC manufacturers install non-Microsoft software on their products.
In recent months, the company has been scrambling to receive regulatory approval for its planned $69 billion purchase of game publisher Activision Blizzard. The company is reportedly expected to receive a green light from the EU and UK, and it has until July to appease the US Federal Trade Commission. Microsoft offered 10-year legal agreements to provide Call of Duty on Nintendo consoles and cloud-streaming platform Boosteroid to help ease those concerns. Sony reportedly declined a similar offer.