Slack has filed an antitrust complaint in the EU against Microsoft for bundling Microsoft Teams with its Office suite of products. It’s deja vu all over again — remember the browser insanity of decades past? — and it raises the same questions.
In a press statement, Slack’s VP of Communications and Policy, Jonathan Prince, said, “We’re confident that we win on the merits of our product, but we can’t ignore illegal behavior that deprives customers of access to the tools and solutions they want. […] We want to be the 2% of your software budget that makes the other 98% more valuable; they want 100% of your budget every time.”
If Slack can “win on the merits,” then this is a frivolous complaint. If it can’t, this is simply an abuse of the law. We use Slack and Microsoft Office; we haven’t switched to Teams because, until very recently, Teams was a pretty bad product.
Microsoft has stepped it up with Teams, and we are currently reevaluating the product as a Slack replacement. Why are we thinking about replacing Slack? Because when we started using Slack, it was predominantly an internal chat client with some abilities to move files around our organization. Our devs like to deploy stuff with Slack, and we like consolidating notifications from various other apps and processes. Slack has evolved over time, and we like (but do not love) its point-to-point audio features, and we put-up with its substandard screen sharing and video conferencing because (for convenience) we don’t want to switch out of the Slack workflow.
Yes, we’re bought into the Slack workflow, as well as all of the training and institutional memory that comes with it. There are better products on the market, but no one here wants to go through the brain damage of learning something new on the promise of a marginal productivity gain. I say “promise” because better tech does not ever mean better productivity. People must be trained. Systems must be integrated. In most cases, more new tech actually means a reduction in productivity until everyone and everything catches up. But I digress.
Would we ever consider Teams as a Slack replacement? You bet. Why? Because it is fully integrated into Microsoft’s suite of products. Is that “anticompetitive”? No. It’s a welcomed kind of wow moment: “Oh look! A new feature.” For a mid-level knowledge worker, having a chat/audio/video feature built into their word processing, file management, spreadsheeting, and presentation environment would be welcome.
In reality, Slack is not a product; it is a feature that should have been included in every office suite from every vendor. Google’s getting it together for Google Suite, and Microsoft is (of course) getting it together for Office365 and the rest of its cloud-based offerings. Slack can cry antitrust all it wants, but their business is based on providing a missing feature that should have always been included in other products. If Slack can’t “win on the merits,” why should it win at all?
My guess is that the EU will go after Microsoft as hard as it can. The EU’s tech strategy seems to be, “Why innovate or invest in big tech? Let’s just sue them.” But that’s another story for another day.
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Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it.