Microsoft: Beware the ‘friendly’ tech giant

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Microsoft was once the primary target of Big Tech’s antitrust cases, narrowly avoiding having to split into two companies in the late 1990s when it was sued for making it difficult for people to uninstall Internet Explorer. clients for the benefit of other browsers.

The company eventually settled with the US Department of Justice. Since then, it has mostly managed to avoid criticism directed at other tech giants such as Google. But that is changing.

Critics say that with its cloud computing business, Microsoft is back to repeating past tactics such as “tying” customers to its products. These claims were at the center of the latest round of regulatory actions against the company.

Some customers accuse Microsoft of charging huge fees to use its software on competing clouds, like using Office on Amazon Web Services, while getting reduced fees if they use Microsoft’s Azure cloud offering instead. .

Microsoft was already the subject of a formal antitrust complaint filed by Slack with the EU in 2020, which accused the tech group of unfairly bundling its rival app Teams with its Office 365 tools. More recently, it emerged that customers from Microsoft 365 only have access to the highest level of security if they pay for the premium E5 version, which basically pushes them to buy another set of features.

There are other parts of Microsoft’s business that are also on regulators’ radars. The company’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard for $75 billion is expected to face competition reviews in the EU and US, and left some worried that Microsoft will use the purchase to monopolize an increasingly consolidated gaming market.

Unlike in the 1990s, this time Microsoft made gestures to suggest it wanted to listen to customer feedback and be friendly to startups entering the market. Two weeks after complaints that users of the latest edition of Windows were having trouble using a non-Microsoft browser, it has been made easier for users to change their default browser.

Responding to the allegation that it used anti-competitive tactics to lure customers to its Azure cloud service and away from rivals, company chairman Brad Smith acknowledged that Microsoft was partially at fault, but without providing details. How it responds to potential regulatory scrutiny can show if Microsoft has really changed, or just become more strategic as it takes a more aggressive stance.

The Internet of (four) things

1. Self-diagnosis ads on TikTok blur mental health fears with reality
Medical brands that encourage users to self-diagnose mental health issues so they can then offer them expensive treatments because the solution has been called “predatory” by watchdog groups, who argue these brands “simplify too much” health problems and encourage misdiagnosis. But it’s not just advertisers who need to be watched by platforms for posting questionable mental health content — users can be just as bad.

2. Why TikTok’s journey to the top of the social media pyramid is almost over
The company may need to be more careful about the ads it allows, but it certainly has no trouble attracting advertisers. An Insider Intelligence forecast puts TikTok’s ad revenue at $11.6 billion this year, up three times from last year’s $3.9 billion, and growth in ad revenue is expected to beat rivals This year. Our Lex team examines how TikTok can leverage advertising market streams.

3. Google bets on offices with an investment of 9.5 billion US dollars
The move is striking given that many tech companies, including Google, have been struggling to get workers back to the office.

4. Russia’s tech industry faces ‘brain drain’ as workers flee
A Russian tech industry trade group estimated that between 50,000 and 70,000 tech workers left the country by the end of March, many of whom are heading to Armenia and up to 100,000 more are likely to follow. The exodus reverses 10-15 years of momentum for Russia’s tech industry. Russians working in technology are part of a global market, with the means to leave as well as incentives.

Tech Tools — Analogue Pocket

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