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Microsoft begins antitrust settlement talks with European cloud businesses.

Photo: Microsoft

Six months after CISPE filed an antitrust complaint alleging that Microsoft was using its business software dominance to tether customers to its Azure cloud platform, Microsoft began settlement talks.

Microsoft came close to settling a related case with OVHcloud, Aruba, and Danish Cloud Community less than a month earlier. However, the trio filed an antitrust complaint with the European Commission (EC) last March, alleging that Microsoft made operating its software in rival clouds more expensive than its Azure platform and made some programs harder to run.

CISPE, which includes OVHcloud and Aruba, launched a separate antitrust case against Microsoft to “give a voice to those members without the resources to file their own complaints, or for whom the fear of retaliation is too great to risk standing alone.”

However, Amazon’s cloud giant AWS is also a CISPE member, so this may not be a David vs. Goliath battle.

However, CISPE said today that Microsoft has approached it with an “outline settlement agreement,” Its member businesses are now negotiating to “return fair competition to the European cloud infrastructure sector.”

CISPE only says Microsoft has offered licensing suggestions. However, Microsoft must meet “several red lines” before a deal is achieved. For instance, any arrangement should apply to all European cloud infrastructure providers and clients and be executed in a way that holds Microsoft accountable for its future commitments.

CISPE states that any organization should be able to operate licensed software on their preferred cloud without financial or technical consequences. “Any settlement must be transparent, clear, open to scrutiny, future-proof, and auditable for compliance over time.”

Even if Microsoft settles with CISPE, its cloud operations will still be criticized. For example, Google has criticized Microsoft’s planned settlement with OVHcloud, Aruba, and Danish Cloud Community, accusing Microsoft of antitrust actions and suggesting that an agreement with smaller cloud rivals may not benefit Google.

The U.K. is investigating the domestic cloud infrastructure industry, targeting Amazon and Microsoft. Ofcom found practices that made it harder for firms to switch cloud providers or go hybrid.

In the EU, CISPE argues there is “still a long way to go” and “several important issues” to resolve.

“Our members are scrutinizing the proposed changes and settlement agreement and will provide feedback to Microsoft in the coming days, including on key elements that are required to solve sector-wide issues,” CISPE said.

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