Jun 18, 2021 - Technology

Microsoft mystery: Whether it's covered by new antitrust proposals

Illustration of a close up of the Microsoft logo with a scale in the middle casting a shadow

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Microsoft wasn't the target of House lawmakers' Big Tech antitrust investigation, but the company may still find itself ensnared by the resulting legislation.

Why it matters: Whether Microsoft, or other large platforms, would be subject to the bipartisan House bills provides an early look at the thorny questions the conditions of the legislation will pose for antitrust enforcers.

What's happening: Antitrust subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline told the Axios Re:Cap podcast, "I don't know whether Microsoft would meet the test that is set forth in these five bills."

  • He noted that the committee's antitrust investigation centered on four companies — Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google — that have "tremendous market dominance" that meets the tests set forth in the bills.
  • "There are likely others, and they certainly won't be the only ones forever," Cicilline said.

Details: The bills apply to companies that have a market capitalization of $600 billion or more and at least 50 million monthly active US users or 100,000 monthly active U.S. business users.

  • The companies must also function as a "critical trading partner" for a sale or service offered on or directly related to the online platform.
  • It will be up to antitrust enforcers — including Lina Khan, the new chair of the Federal Trade Commission, an outspoken advocate of strong measures to rein in tech power — to determine which companies meet the threshold.

What they're saying: Microsoft pointed to an interview president Brad Smith gave to Bloomberg TV after the bills were introduced.

  • "There are aspects of the legislation that was introduced in the House last week that absolutely applies to Microsoft and many other companies," Smith said.
  • "There will be days when there are restrictions and I think we can get our minds around it. And there will be days when there are restrictions that we think go too far that undermine innovation, that basically undermine our ability to serve customers. It's all about balance and that usually takes a while to figure out."
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