Friday, 20 January 2017

EU gives conditional OK to Microsoft's LinkedIn buy

By Nick Wood, Total Telecom
Wednesday 07 December 16

Software giant commits to giving LinkedIn rivals continued access to Office; must give Windows PC makers the option not to pre-install LinkedIn.

The European Commission has approved Microsoft's $26.2 billion acquisition of LinkedIn, albeit subject to conditions. Following an investigation, the Commission concluded that the deal does not have the potential to damage competition in the customer relationship management (CRM) and online advertising markets, but could allow Microsoft to harm rival professional social networks…

The European Commission has approved Microsoft's $26.2 billion acquisition of LinkedIn, albeit subject to conditions.

Following an investigation, the Commission concluded that the deal does not have the potential to damage competition in the customer relationship management (CRM) and online advertising markets, but could allow Microsoft to harm rival professional social networks.

"A growing number of Europeans subscribe to professional social networks. These networks are important for professionals to connect and interact and to find new career opportunities," said competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in a statement on Tuesday.

In particular, the Commission said it was concerned that Microsoft would harm competition by pre-installing LinkedIn on all Windows PCs, and by combining the user bases of LinkedIn and Microsoft Office and preventing LinkedIn's rivals from accessing Microsoft's APIs.

As a result, Microsoft has committed to giving Windows PC makers a choice over whether to pre-install LinkedIn, and to allowing customers to remove LinkedIn from their PC should the manufacturer opt to pre-install it.

LinkedIn's rivals must also continue to be given the same level of access to, and interoperability with Microsoft Office via APIs and Microsoft's Office add-in programme.

In addition, competing professional social networks must also be granted access to Microsoft Graph, an API portal that allows software developers to create apps and services that access user data stored in the Microsoft cloud, such as contact information calendar information, emails, etc.

"Today's decision ensures that Europeans will continue to enjoy a freedom of choice between professional social networks," Vestager said.

Now that the Commission has approved Microsoft's LinkedIn buy, "the deal will close in the coming days," said Brad Smith, Microsoft's chief legal officer, in a blog post on Microsoft's Website.

"With this regulatory process behind us, we can bring together two great companies and focus on even broader issues for the future," he said.

Microsoft agreed to acquire LinkedIn in June, and plans to integrate it with its Productivity and Business Processes division, which includes its Office software for both consumer and enterprise clients, Skype, its OneDrive cloud storage service, and its Dynamics CRM solution.

The deal came at a sensitive time for acquisitions involving large quantities of user data.

Vestager said in a speech in September that Brussels is considering whether to take a closer look at mergers and acquisitions that involve a large volume of valuable data.

"A company might even buy up a rival just to get hold of its data, even though it hasn't yet managed to turn that data into money," she said at the time.

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