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How did Microsoft escape the antitrust crackdown?
Big Tech is under intense scrutiny for its monopoly power, with investigations into Apple, Amazon and Facebook, and a case against Google, underway. But when Microsoft announced yesterday that it would acquire Nuance Communications for $16 billion, analysts appeared confident that regulators would allow it. “We see no major regulatory hurdles to Microsoft getting this deal done,” Daniel Ives of Wedbush Securities wrote in a report.
“Microsoft is on the M&A warpath over the next 12 to 18 monthsand Nuance could be the first step in an increased appetite for deals,” Mr. Ives wrote. The tech giant was the poster child of antitrust action in the 1990s but has received relatively little attention during the most recent round of antitrust probes, even as it bought ZeniMax for $7.5 billion, bid for TikTok and reportedly looked to buy Discord and Pinterest. Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief, was the only Big Five tech C.E.O. who did not testify at congressional antitrust hearings last year.
After Microsoft completes the all-cash purchase of Nuance, it will still have plenty of money for more deal-making: It ended last year with $132 billion in the bank. “Microsoft right now feels free as a bird,” Mr. Ives told DealBook, in contrast to its Big Tech rivals wary of antitrust attention.
So why hasn’t Microsoft attracted more scrutiny?
“Microsoft is not perceived as predatory in the same way” as other Big Tech firms, said Matt Stoller, the director of research at the American Economic Liberties Project. “It hasn’t been displacing whole industry segments, whereas the other four have.” He added that government agencies “have to pick something to focus on, and Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook are the pace-setters of the economy.”