In response to an ongoing antitrust investigation by the European Commission, Microsoft announced Thursday that it will start offering versions of Microsoft Office in Europe without the Teams chat and collaboration app preinstalled. The change will take effect on October 1, 2023, and is aimed at addressing claims that Microsoft is unfairly bundling Teams with its popular Office suite.
The European Commission opened a formal probe in July to assess whether Microsoft’s bundling practices reduce competition and limit consumer choice. Rival services like Slack had complained that Microsoft was giving itself an unfair advantage by deeply integrating Teams with essential Office apps like Outlook, Word, and Excel.
Under the new changes, business customers of Office 365 in Europe will be able to license Office without Teams included. Microsoft will also offer Teams as a separate standalone subscription. The company said this will allow customers to choose the tools that best meet their needs at competitive prices.
In addition, Microsoft stated that it will improve interoperability between Microsoft 365 and third-party products and services. This includes providing better support for integrating rival collaboration apps with Office and making it easier for developers to build tools that work across platforms.
The company framed the changes as balanced solutions that will benefit Microsoft customers and partners while also addressing regulatory concerns. However, the Commission’s investigation remains ongoing and Microsoft said it will continue cooperating with regulators.
Previous antitrust probes have resulted in hefty fines for the tech giant. But Microsoft appears to be getting out ahead of regulators this time with preemptive concessions. The move reflects Microsoft’s gradual shift toward a more open and collaborative approach in the EU after past bruising battles over Windows and Internet Explorer.
The bundling of Teams with Office 365 was a key growth strategy for Microsoft as demand for collaboration apps boomed during the pandemic. Forcing European customers to purchase the apps separately could slow that momentum. But giving customers choice may ultimately strengthen Microsoft against claims of anticompetitive behavior.
Rival Slack, which spurred the EU investigation, has yet to comment on whether Microsoft’s unbundling remedy adequately resolves its complaints. But the Commission’s response will be the real test as to whether Microsoft’s proactive changes are enough to satisfy antitrust regulators and forestall further action.