Microsoft's LinkedIn deal clears the EU, will close in the coming days

Despite competitors' protests, Microsoft's $26 billion acquisition will go through

Microsoft's mammoth acquisition of LinkedIn has just cleared the last hurdle in front of it, paving the way for the tech titan to buy the professional social network for US$26.2 billion.

European Union regulators have approved the acquisition, joining agencies in the U.S., Canada, Brazil, and South Africa.

The deal is expected to close "in the coming days," Brad Smith, Microsoft's president and chief legal officer, said in a blog post Tuesday.

The news comes roughly six months after Microsoft announced the deal. Microsoft at the time said it expected the acquisition to close by the end of 2016, and it seems poised to hit that mark.

It's good news for Microsoft, considering that the company’s competitors filed complaints with European regulatory authorities to block the deal.

Chief among them was Salesforce, which argued that Microsoft would be able to hoard LinkedIn's data to enhance its CRM products and other software while barring competitors from accessing it.

Microsoft did make several commitments to European regulators related to its treatment of LinkedIn, Smith said.

The company committed to making its Office Add-In program available to third-party social networks so that LinkedIn competitors will be able to integrate their services into Microsoft's productivity apps.

The company also committed to allowing IT administrators the ability to hide the LinkedIn user interface from users if they choose to. Should Microsoft develop a LinkedIn application or tile for Windows, PC manufacturers will be able to opt-out of pre-installing it on devices sold in the European Economic Area.

Users will also be able to uninstall a LinkedIn application should it come pre-installed, and Microsoft also said that it wouldn't use Windows to prompt users to install that app.

The hypothetical app could remain available for sale in the Windows Store, however, and Microsoft could choose to promote it in other ways.

Some of these restrictions feel reminiscent of the EU-Microsoft antitrust judgment from the early 2000s. But all in all, they don’t add up to much of a negative consequence for Microsoft.

The company will need to provide an open platform for competing social networks to access Windows and Office, but won’t be required to hand over LinkedIn's data.

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Blair Hanley Frank

IDG News Service
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