Why it matters: Given the historic size and influence of Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard acquisition, it makes sense for the Redmond giant to release a statement assuaging regulators’ concerns. Most of what it’s saying here sounds like a response to politicians’ comments about Apple, with a noticeable caveat for game consoles.
This week Microsoft put out a blog post listing a set of commitments regarding how it handles software on its platforms. For the most part, the promises are geared toward user privacy and fairness towards developers. Microsoft opens by saying it understands the necessity of regulation, pointing out how it has spent decades adapting to antitrust law. It acknowledged that its $68.7 billion deal to acquire Call of Duty and Overwatch maker Activision Blizzard attracted some attention from the US Federal Trade Commission.
Microsoft promises to respect users’ privacy, try to be transparent about how ads work on its stores, and won’t give preference to its first-party software over third-party offerings. That latter part seems like a response to the controversy Microsoft caught last year when it made it harder for Windows 11 users to switch from its Edge web browser.
The last four commitments pledge to keep Windows open by not forcing developers onto the Microsoft Store or forcing them to use Microsoft’s payment processing. These seem like a more direct response to the court case between Apple and Epic games over how Apple requires all iOS and iPadOS software to go through the App Store and regulatory actions against Apple’s policies.
Microsoft reiterates explicitly its promise to keep Call of Duty games on PlayStation through its current deal with Activision, which lasts through the next three games. It even said Call of Duty games will still be on PlayStation beyond that agreement, though in what form remains unclear.
Microsoft claims it is committed to open platforms, yet the Xbox is just as much a walled garden as Apple’s App Store. Here, the Redmond giant distinguishes between general-purpose platforms like PCs or mobile devices and “specialized computing devices” like game consoles, countering that they depend on software revenue to make up losses from hardware sales.