Regulators from the European Union have been outspoken in their distrust of the Microsoft-LinkedIn acquisition. Last week, we reported on Microsoft’s plans to offer concessions to allay these fears. Yesterday, further details came to light.
According to Reuters, Microsoft will give competing social networks access to its Outlook programs. Both the API and the add-in will be available, though some companies already have access. The concession is an assurance that nothing will change after the deal. Competitors will still get access to Microsoft’s services, and LinkedIn will not be favored over any other network.
However, the Redmond giant also has a second proposal. Microsoft guarantees that hardware manufacturers will not be pressured to install LinkedIn by default. This is a practice taken by Dell, HP, Lenovo and Acer with the Office Suite, which comes pre-installed on some devices.
The concession should allay some fears of unfair competition due to Microsoft’s large reach. Despite this, some argue that it’s not enough. One of the biggest fears is exclusive access to LinkedIn’s database of 450 million professionals, which could provide some with a significant advantage.
One of the biggest fears is exclusive access to LinkedIn’s database of 450 million professionals, which could provide some with a significant advantage.
The complaint initially came from Salesforce, who took part in a bidding war for the company:
“By gaining ownership of LinkedIn’s unique dataset of over 450 million professionals in more than 200 countries, Microsoft will be able to deny competitors access to that data, and in doing so obtain an unfair competitive advantage,” said chief legal officer Burke Norton. “Salesforce believes this raises significant antitrust and data privacy issues that need to be fully scrutinized by competition and data privacy authorities in the United States and in the European Union.”
Microsoft is currently in talks with SugarCRM, Oracle and HubSpot about access to a small portion of the data. This includes datasets such as name, title, and photo, which also feature in LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator tool.
However, this data may also be available through the Outlook concession. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner mentioned Outlook integration as one of the first things on the list:
“When someone sends you an email you [will] know who they are,” he explains. “If you’re less familiar with them, you’re able to add them to your network… If you’re already familiar with them, you see if they changed job, changed company, what they shared recently.”
As a result, Microsoft’s Outlook offering is much more generous than it seems. Access to the API will also ensure that other social networks can integrate data into Outlook.
Though there’s no word on the rest of the data, the concessions may be just enough to keep regulators at bay. The EU is currently seeking feedback from competitors, and we should hear a final decision very soon.