EU software and cloud businesses have joined Nextcloud in filing a complaint with the European Commission regarding Microsoft’s alleged anti-competitive behaviour over the bundling of its OS with online services.
The issue is OneDrive and Microsoft’s habit of packaging it (and other services such as Teams) with Windows software.
Nextcloud sells on-premises collaboration platforms that it claims combine “the convenience and ease of use of consumer-grade solutions like Dropbox and Google Drive with the security, privacy and control business needs.” Microsoft’s cloud storage system, OneDrive, is conspicuous by its absence.
The accusation of bundling is reminiscent of concerns raised during the 1990s browser wars, when Microsoft eventually received a severe slap on the wrist over Internet Explorer. Today, the concerns are in relation to how difficult it is to avoid OneDrive when dealing with storage in Windows; that business app Teams turned up built into Windows 11; and all manner of Microsoft 365 grumbles.
So once more the antitrust lawyers are sharpening their knives.
Nextcloud points to growth in the share of the EU software-as-a-service market by the US tech giants (Microsoft, Amazon and Google are singled out) to 66 per cent while homegrown alternatives have dropped to 16 per cent. “Behavior like this [the alleged anti-competitive practices] is at the core of this growth of the tech giants and has to be stopped,” it thundered.
Frank Karlitschek, CEO and founder of Nextcloud GmbH, said in a statement: “This is quite similar to what Microsoft did when it killed competition in the browser market, stopping nearly all browser innovation for over a decade. Copy an innovators’ product, bundle it with your own dominant product and kill their business, then stop innovating.”
We have asked Nextcloud for a copy of the complaint. It does not appear that the cloud firms are accusing Microsoft of infringing IP but we’ve asked the CEO to clarify.
Karlitschek added: “This kind of behavior is bad for the consumer, for the market and, of course, for local businesses in the EU.”
Nextcloud’s coalition includes The Document Foundation (of LibreOffice fame), whose chairman Lothar Becker said that it was up to European citizens to select their productivity tools.
“Big Tech’s actions,” he said, “based on their monopoly power in the operating system area, force consumers to use proprietary software, thus reducing their freedom and digital rights.”
Although things quietened down for Microsoft somewhat in the decade after the infamous browser wars debacle, complaints about its behaviour have been increasing in recent times. Slack slung a competition sueball in 2020 as it battled Microsoft Teams, and last month a report was published by the Cloud Infrastructure Service Providers in Europe (CISPE) calling for the licensing antics of “legacy” software players (such as Microsoft) to be brought to heel.
The Register has contacted Microsoft regarding Nextcloud’s complaint, and will update should the company respond.
Nextcloud originally made an official complaint to the EU Directorate-General earlier in 2021 and is now asking the European Commission to ensure that Microsoft doesn’t, in its eyes, abuse its position in the operating system arena. ®