Microsoft has been under pressure from European regulators for several years over the bundling of its popular chat and videoconferencing service, Teams, with its Office and Microsoft 365 productivity suites. On Tuesday, the tech giant finally responded to the EU’s antitrust concerns by announcing that it will start unbundling Teams from its Office and Microsoft 365 suites, effective October 1st, for customers in the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland.
According to CNBC, The move by Microsoft comes after a 3-year saga, culminating in July of this year when the European Commission (EC) launched a formal investigation into the company’s practice of bundling Teams with its productivity suites.
Nanna-Louise Linde, vice president of Microsoft European Government Affairs, said “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.”
Microsoft’s unbundling of Teams from its Office and Microsoft 365 suites comes with a price, as customers in the EEA and Switzerland will be able to purchase Microsoft 365 subscriptions at a lower cost without Teams, or have to buy a standalone version of Teams at €5 per month or €60 per year. However, Microsoft says any frontline workers or small business owners in the region will still have the option to include Teams in their purchase.
In addition to unbundling Teams, Microsoft also plans to enhance its resources on interoperability with Microsoft 365 and Office 365, allowing developers and users more control over the data transferred from Teams. Microsoft also said it will be creating a new method for using its programs in competing apps, like Zoom and Slack, and even allowing rivals to host Office web applications within their own apps, as Microsoft does with Teams. These changes come in light of a complaint from Slack last July, accusing the tech giant of using its Office and Microsoft 365 productivity suites to create an anti-competitive environment.
“We believe these changes balance the interests of our competitors with those of European business customers, providing them with access to the best possible solutions at competitive prices,” said Linde.
While the unbundling of Teams from Microsoft’s Office and Microsoft 365 productivity suites is certainly a step in the right direction, it remains to be seen whether this move will be enough to satisfy EU regulators. Microsoft will now be facing scrutiny again, this time regarding its proposed acquisition of gaming company Activision Blizzard. Microsoft, and the European Commission, will both be awaiting the results of the unbundling to see if it was enough to solve the antitrust issue.