Beware of Microsoft bearing gifts.
That’s a quick way to summarize allegations in the Daily Mail now flying around regarding the UK’s National Health Service, the NHS, which thought it was receiving a valuable free Teams plan from Microsoft, only to find out it was used as a way to push domestic competitors out of the long-term picture.
It’s a story as old as Microsoft, and a good lesson to all those in the free and open source community who now believe Microsoft’s shtick of becoming a reformed monopolistic bully who only wants to collaborate to the benefit of all.
But if investigations out of the UK confirm Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng’s suspicions, what the world will have essentially learned is that the principles established towards smaller competitors during Microsoft’s heyday and while Bill Gates was at the helm are to all intents and purposes still a part of the company’s DNA: “Embrace, extend – extinguish.”
The story here goes that at the height of the pandemic, Microsoft offered its Teams collaborative software to the NHS for free. But under what was seemingly a generous offer Kwarteng now fears to uncover “a takeover by stealth” that eventually pushed smaller British firms out of the business that became particularly sought after and lucrative during the many months of lockdowns.
And while the NHS is said to have saved “millions of pounds” – a drop in Microsoft’s revenue bucket – the effect on smaller competitors in the UK is reported to have been devastating, as they lost contracts also worth millions, the amount that this time around has a make-or-break importance for most competitors to any Tech Giant.
In the end, Microsoft’s “generosity” is strongly suspected to have stemmed from the desire to, in this roundabout way that also secured it some very good press while it was happening, “exercise control” and circumvent competition that would have happened in an open market.
Microsoft gained “lucrative leverage over health infrastructure under the guise of charity,” reports quote one source familiar with the controversy, adding, “Microsoft may have claimed to save the NHS millions of staff hours – but the price will be much higher later on down the line” – with license renewals.
So in addition to not trusting Microsoft bearing gifts – it might be a good idea, after all we’ve learned about its “repeat offender” behavior over the past 30 years – to just not to trust it, full stop.