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Microsoft is Facing Antitrust Probe in South Africa Over Azure Cloud Practices

By Oluchukwu Ikemefuna

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Another challenge is currently being posed to the global dominance of Microsoft in the cloud computing sector, this time on the African continent.

The South African Competition Commission (CompCom), which is an antitrust watchdog of the country, has launched a formal investigation into Microsoft’s cloud licensing practices for its Azure platform.

Microsoft is Facing Antitrust Probe in South Africa Over Azure Cloud Practices

This probe comes at a time when there are allegations that there could be anti-competitive behavior which might stifle competition in the fast-growing cloud market in South Africa.

The Allegations: Making Switching Difficult

The investigation essentially revolves around concerns that Microsoft may be making it excessively hard and expensive for businesses to transfer their cloud licenses from Azure to other platforms.

Sources with knowledge of the matter indicate that CompCom is looking into whether or not Microsoft’s licensing agreements contain unfair exit fees or lock-in periods, which discourage businesses from exploring alternative cloud solutions.

Echoes of the EU case: Unbundling and a global impact

The South African investigation is quite similar to the ongoing antitrust case that Microsoft has with the European Union (EU) regulator.

In the EU case, Microsoft was accused of doing the same thing as in this South African investigation, which was bundling products, making it difficult for businesses to choose individual products within the Microsoft 365 suite, most notably the inclusion of Microsoft Teams.

The EU’s intervention ultimately led to the unbundling of Teams from Office 365 on a global level, which might be instrumental in deciding the outcome of the South African investigation.

Potential Consequences: Microsoft’s deep pockets and Market Reforms

The potential impact on Microsoft in South Africa could be profound.

If the company is found guilty of anti-competitive practices, it could be charged hefty fines amounting to 10% of its revenue in South Africa.

More importantly, CompCom may introduce corrective measures that would change Microsoft’s cloud licensing practices in the region.

This could mean that they would force Microsoft to offer more flexible licensing options, reduce exit fees or ensure a level playing field for other cloud providers.

Read More: EU Begins Investigations on Apple, Meta and Google

A Pivotal Moment for South Africa’s Cloud Market

This investigation could not have come at a better time for South Africa’s cloud ecosystem.

With businesses progressively moving to cloud-based solutions for data storage, application deployment and other vital functions, an open and competitive cloud market becomes a necessity.

The CompCom intervention thus sends out a very clear signal that no obstacle to competition or limitation on consumer choice will be tolerated in this fast-growing sector.

Worldwide Consequences of Microsoft’s Cloud Strategy

The South African probe also adds another level of complexity to Microsoft’s global cloud strategy.

The company has been aggressively promoting Azure as a main driver of its future growth and if it comes up against antitrust problems in key markets like EU and South Africa, its progress may be impeded.

Microsoft has maintained that it is not aware of any formal complaint filed by the South African authorities.

Nevertheless, the company will certainly be closely watching the investigation process and preparing its defense to address allegations of anti-competitive behavior.

Seizing the Opportunity: The Rise of AWS and GCP

One of the things to keep an eye on in this saga will be how other cloud providers, like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), are able to use this situation.

These companies might use the South African investigation as an opportunity to expand their presence in the South African market by positioning themselves as more competitive and customer-friendly alternatives to Microsoft Azure.

Conclusion: Is this a Reshaped Cloud Landscape in South Africa?

The antitrust investigation initiated by South Africa against Microsoft’s Azure practices may bring about the necessary changes in the cloud computing landscape in the region.

If CompCom finds proof of anti-competitive behavior, Microsoft may suffer major repercussions.

This development is also a timely reminder of the increasing number of tech giants that are facing closer examination globally regarding their monopoly on the cloud market.

The next steps of this investigation will be to observe Microsoft’s reaction to these allegations and how other cloud providers will position themselves to make use of this opportunity.

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Oluchukwu Ikemefuna
Oluchukwu Ikemefuna

Oluchukwu Blessing Ikemefuna, a talented content writer from Anambra, Nigeria, found her writing passion in secondary school. Holding a degree in Biological Sciences from Federal University of Technology, Owerri, she specializes in blog writing across technology, finance, healthcare, education, and lifestyle sectors. With strong research and SEO skills, Oluchukwu creates engaging content globally. Her work aims to inspire and engage authentically while driving action. Outside work, she enjoys travel, reading, and movies as she grows as a skilled writer.

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