Microsoft's CEO alters tune following UK criticism

Brad Smith, the president of Microsoft, has refuted his previous year's characterization of the United Kingdom as "awful for business."

Mr. Smith delivered the remarks subsequent to the competition watchdog's initial denial of the technology behemoth's acquisition bid for the gaming behemoth Activision Blizzard. He stated that public trust in the United Kingdom had been "severely undermined."

However, he has since stated that the Competition and Markets Authority's approval of the transaction was "rigorous and equitable."

Mr. Smith explained in an interview that this prompted Microsoft to modify the acquisition proposal we had presented, which had entailed Activision Blizzard issuing specific rights pertaining to cloud gaming that raised concerns with the CMA.

The CMA obstructed Microsoft's acquisition of Activision in April of last year out of concern that it would reduce innovation and consumer choice in the rapidly expanding cloud gaming industry. The Xbox gaming console is owned by Microsoft, whereas Activision Blizzard develops games such as the widely acclaimed Call of Duty series.

Mr. Smith also suggested at the time of the initial rejection that it would increase the European Union's appeal as a business destination.

It was a setback for the government of the United Kingdom, which aspires for the nation to become a technological superpower.

The transaction was approved by the regulator in October subsequent to Microsoft's reorganisation of its offer.

According to Mr. Smith's statement to the sources, the CMA not only reaffirmed its stance but also established a practical trajectory for investment and innovation. He mentioned that he believed that is beneficial for all parties involved.

Sarah Cardell, the head of the competition watchdog, criticised Microsoft's behaviour in October, stating, "Businesses and their advisors should be certain that the strategies Microsoft has implemented are not an acceptable method of interacting with the CMA."

She continued that Microsoft had the opportunity to restructure during their initial investigation, but they insisted on a suite of measures that they informed them would not work. According to Sarah, protracted proceedings in this manner are financially and time-wasting. 

The acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft, which would be the largest merger in gaming industry history, was initially declared in January of last year. However, it generated considerable controversy and was met with a varied reaction from regulatory bodies worldwide.

In August 2023, Microsoft submitted a restructured agreement for evaluation by the competition monitor.

In accordance with the new proposal, Microsoft consented to grant Ubisoft, the French video game publisher, the privilege of streaming Activision games from the cloud for a period of fifteen years.

This allows gamers who favour competing consoles to Sony's PlayStation or Microsoft's Xbox to continue streaming games from the cloud, including Call of Duty, Overwatch, and World of Warcraft.

In his interview with the sources, Mr. Smith also noted Microsoft's assurance that it will invest £2.5 billion in artificial intelligence infrastructure for the United Kingdom over the next three years. Additionally, he mentioned the "important" AI Safety Summit that was hosted by the government of the United Kingdom in November, which he personally attended.