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Business News/ Technology / Microsoft to Unbundle Teams Software in Europe
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Microsoft to Unbundle Teams Software in Europe

wsj

Software giant says it aims to address concerns raised in EU antitrust investigation

Microsoft Teams is an app used for videoconferencing. Premium
Microsoft Teams is an app used for videoconferencing.

Microsoft says it will change the way it sells its Teams videoconferencing service to business customers in Europe in a push to address concerns raised in a European Union antitrust investigation.

The software giant said Thursday that it plans to offer business customers the chance to buy a lower-priced version of its productivity suites that doesn’t include the videoconferencing app. New customers would still have the option of purchasing Teams separately if they want the service.

“We believe this is a constructive step that can start to lead to immediate and meaningful changes in the market," said Nanna-Louise Linde, Microsoft’s vice president for European government affairs.

Microsoft made the announcement in a blog post published Thursday morning. It said the changes would take effect at the beginning of October and apply in the European Economic Area, a group of European countries that excludes the U.K. The changes will also apply in Switzerland.

The European Commission, the bloc’s executive body, said Thursday that it had taken note of Microsoft’s announcement. A spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the move would help to address officials’ concerns.

When it launched its investigation in July, the commission said it was concerned that Microsoft’s practice of bundling the Teams app with its productivity software could amount to an abuse of the company’s dominant position.

The commission also alleged that Microsoft might have limited interoperability between its productivity suites—which include Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint—and other products that compete with Teams.

The investigation, which is ongoing, is the first formal EU probe that Microsoft has faced in more than a decade. Competition watchdogs in Europe and the U.S. previously targeted the company in the 1990s and 2000s. Those earlier cases focused on Microsoft’s bundling of its Internet Explorer browser and its media player with the Windows operating system.

Microsoft is separately pursuing a last-ditch attempt to secure regulatory approval from the U.K.’s competition authority to buy videogaming company Activision Blizzard.

Microsoft said in its blog post Thursday that it planned to offer versions of its productivity suites that don’t include Teams for 2 euros less each month, equivalent to $2 a month. That change would apply to most business customers in the region, the company said, and Teams would still be available for new customers to buy separately.

Customers who already pay for a Microsoft productivity suite with Teams, and a small subset of new customers, can continue to have those products packaged together if they want, Microsoft said.

The company said it would also make it easier for customers using rival apps and services to display and edit documents and other products that were created using Microsoft’s productivity tools.

The EU investigation originated with a complaint lodged in 2020 by business-messaging app Slack, which said Microsoft was forcing companies to install Teams and blocking its removal. Slack Technologies is now owned by business-software company Salesforce.

Salesforce didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the changes Microsoft announced Thursday.

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