Microsoft: the hour of truth has come for the “gentle gentleman” of tech

Posted Sep 6, 2022 7:00 AM

Nothing equals the zeal of a convert. In the cases of antitrust and regulation of large high-tech companies, Microsoft is no longer the pariah condemned in 2004 by the European Union for having imposed its software within the Windows operating system, dominant in the world. ‘era. The Redmond company does not want to appear like the one that American justice threatened twenty-two years ago to cut into two separate companies to prevent its “predatory” practices on the Internet browser market.

From now on, Microsoft plays the role of the “Mister Nice Guy” (“Mister Nice Guy”) of the tech. At least for those who compare it to Facebook, Google or Amazon. When these companies defend themselves or apologize from hearing to hearing before elected officials in the United States, France, the United Kingdom or Brussels, the Redmond company does not miss an opportunity to show its goodwill.

To Brad Smith’s credit

Behind the scenes, its spokespersons go so far as to suggest regulations that could affect, albeit minimally, the group’s profits. Publicly, the company modified the license conditions of its software at the end of August to open up the market a little more to its European competitors in the online computing market. After a complaint from the French OVHcloud, the mere possibility of an investigation into the subject made it change course.

But now is the moment of truth for this strategy of influence to be put for more than ten years to the credit of Brad Smith, the president of Microsoft, sometimes presented as the number two of the group after Satya Nadella. In Europe, the domination of Amazon and Microsoft on the very strategic market of online data hosting raises questions for the competition authorities. In addition, Microsoft will be affected by the antitrust rules being implemented by the European Commission’s recent Digital Markets Act.

British threat to Activision takeover

Around the world, Microsoft’s ongoing takeover of video game publisher Activision for $75 billion is also being scrutinized from all sides. Just last week, the English competition authority told Microsoft that it was giving it five days to convince it not to open an in-depth investigation (phase 2) into this operation, which would be the largest of video game history.

Unlike its rivals, whose proactivity with decision-makers remains largely in the shadows, Microsoft had however, as soon as the takeover was announced, that Activision’s star games, such as “Call of Duty”, will continue to be available to owners of PlayStation consoles, the rival of its Xbox.

First victory

In the United States, this strategy has already given Microsoft powerful allies. If senators are worried, the most prominent Republican elected to the House of Representatives on these competitive issues has already supported the project with Activision. “The assurances I’ve received from Microsoft are encouraging,” Ken Buck, one of Big Tech’s harshest critics in the House of Representatives, tweeted just hours after the deal was announced.

According to the “Wall Street Journal”, the tweet appeared after a call from Brad Smith’s teams. And a few months earlier, the president of Microsoft had blown the elected official some scathing questions to ask Google and Facebook during public hearings. While the antitrust world is increasingly questioning the merits of letting Facebook buy Instagram and WhatsApp, being able to consider such a merger with Activision is already a victory for Microsoft.

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