Antitrust regulators at the European Union like to make American firms jump through an awful lot of hoops before approving a big merger, as they did to Oracle when it spent nine months trying to acquire Sun Microsystems back in 2009. Now they are doing it to Microsoft over its proposed $26.2 billion acquisition of LinkedIn.
Earlier this month, regulators expressed concerns to Microsoft that it would stifle access to LinkedIn's APIs and other mobile concerns. Last week, the European Commission said Microsoft had responded to those concerns by proposing "concessions," which Reuters has obtained.
According to the news outlet, Microsoft has made three major promises to the European Commission:
- Microsoft will provide rivals with access to key LinkedIn APIs after the acquisition, so apps from those companies will be able to retain their LinkedIn-based functionality.
- Android and iOS will be able to pre-install the native LinkedIn app on their devices, and Microsoft would not restrict LinkedIn to just its own devices (which would be insane given Windows Mobile's 1 percent market share).
- Manufacturers would also be free to pre-install rival apps to LinkedIn on their devices
These proposed concessions are an attempt by Microsoft to demonstrate that it won't use the acquisition to try to stifle competition or punish partners who choose to favor rival networks over its own offering.
So, who exactly are these competitors? LinkedIn is far and away the top professional social network, and I've yet to encounter someone who uses a different network. There's Facebook, to a degree, but it's not really a work-oriented site.
However, there are two big ones in Europe, which would be in the European Commission's best interests to protect. One is called Xing, based out of Germany, with about 10 million members mostly in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. There's a bigger competitor, Viadeo, with about 65 million members in Europe and is now targeting the U.S. for expansion.
The deadline is past for Microsoft's competitors to provide feedback or raise any objections regarding the acquisition and Microsoft's proposals. Salesforce is one of them. It called for a full investigation into the deal back in October. The European Commission is expected to deliver its ruling on or before December 6.