Today’s Cache | The Email Killer and Microsoft

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Today’s Cache dissects major themes at the intersection of technology, business and politics. Written by John Xavier, Head of Tech News at The Hindu

Slack needs help from regulators to tame Microsoft

Who doesn’t hate emails? It’s one of those activities that eats up time and steals productivity. People wanted something more efficient to replace emails, but they weren’t sure what that would be. This is how Slack entered the workplace eight years ago.

The founders of Flickr, a web-based photo sharing service, decided to do away with desktop email with an app that businesses could use on a daily basis. They developed the searchable journal for all conversations and acquaintances (Slack). In 24 hours, nearly 8,000 companies registered.

The desktop email alternative quickly took off among developers at tech companies after co-founder Stewart Butterfield made it public in 2014. Microsoft suddenly had a competitor for its Outlook email service. The Windows manufacturer’s Office suite has been an important service for its corporate users. And this pool was slowing down the switch to another medium of business communication.

Microsoft knew that Slack was a threat to effectively manage this competitor. So the software maker even considered buying the company from Butterfield, according to some reports. But later, in 2016, the Redmond-based company decided to create a service that would rival Slack.

Instead of tinkering with Outlook, he released a beta version of Teams, a web-based and app-based business collaboration tool for corporate users. While it wasn’t an instant hit, the pandemic has helped Microsoft push the adoption and use of its Slack plus Zoom-style service. More and more people have started using the software giant’s tool for office meetings and collaboration.

Flags of the European Union.

Flags of the European Union.

That’s when Slack filed a complaint last July with the EU’s competition watchdog, alleging that Microsoft had abused its dominant position in the market. The email killer alleged that the software maker bundled Teams with its widely used Office productivity suite. He also noted that the makers of Windows are forcing companies to install Teams, blocking removal of the app, and making certain types of interoperability impossible. Microsoft has said it offers its customers a variety of choices and is even willing to provide additional information to the European Commission.

Now, more than a year later, EU antitrust regulators are following up on Slack’s complaint, according to a Reuters report.

In the commission’s questionnaire, seen by the news agency, rivals Microsoft were asked to provide a list of customers who switched to Teams or its Office bundle, the percentage of revenue they lost in consequence, as well as the impact of the integrated products on their investments in innovation and the quality and price of their products.

Based on the responses to the investigation, the committee will take up the case against Microsoft, which has been fined $ 2.6 billion in European fines for cases involving related and other practices in the Internet. during the previous decade.

After filing the complaint last July, Jonathan Prince, head of communications and policy at Slack, said: “It’s much more important than Slack vs. Microsoft – it’s a proxy for two very different philosophies. for the future of digital ecosystems, the gateways against the gatekeepers. “

The antitrust watchdog will assess the two different philosophies to decide in favor of one that puts free markets and competition at the center.

(This column was emailed on October 11.)

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