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EU clears Microsoft buy of LinkedIn

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(BRUSSELS) - The EU Commission approved the acquisition of LinkedIn by Microsoft Tuesday, subject to conditions aimed at preserving competition between professional social networks in Europe.

The Commission's probe looked at whether, after the merger, Microsoft could use its strong market position in operating systems (Windows) for personal computers (PCs) and productivity software (including Outlook, Word, Excel and Power Point) to strengthen LinkedIn's position among professional social networks.

It had concerns that Microsoft would pre-install LinkedIn on all Windows PCs; and integrate LinkedIn into Microsoft Office thereby shutting out LinkedIn's competitors from access to Microsoft's application programming interfaces, which they need to interoperate with Microsoft's products and to access user data stored in the Microsoft cloud.

The Commission found these measures could have significantly enhanced LinkedIn's visibility whilst competing professional social networks could potentially be denied such access.

The Commission also looked at whether after the merger Microsoft would be able to shut out its competitors by obliging LinkedIn customers to buy Microsoft CRM software; and denying competitors access to the full LinkedIn database

With LinkedIn's product not seen as a "must have" solution, and access to the full LinkedIn database not essential to compete on the market, and Microsoft a relatively small player in the customer relationship management market (with competitors such as Salesforce, Oracle and SAP), the Commission saw it as unlikely that the transaction would enable Microsoft to eliminate competition in this market.

To address competition concerns, Microsoft offered a series of commitments., including that PC manufacturers and distributors would be free not to install LinkedIn on Windows and allowing users to remove LinkedIn from Windows should PC manufacturers and distributors decide to pre-install it; allowing competing professional social network service providers to maintain current levels of interoperability with Microsoft's Office suite of products through the so-called Office add-in program and Office application programming interfaces; and granting competing professional social network service providers access to "Microsoft Graph", a gateway for software developers.

The commitments will apply in the EEA for a period of five years and will be monitored by a trustee.

As the commitments addressed competition concerns, the Commission concluded that the proposed transaction, as modified by the commitments, would no longer raise competition concerns.

More information will be available on the competition website, in the Commission's public case register under the case number M.8124.

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