Microsoft could be in some trouble over its April 2021 $19.7 billion purchase of Nuance Communications — which specializes in artificial intelligence and speech transcription, especially in U.S. hospitals. That’s according to Reuters, which obtained a questionnaire showing that the European Union’s antitrust regulator has asked customers and Nuance competitors to draw up a list of concerns over the deal.
At the center of the antitrust issue is whether Microsoft might end up favoring Nuance over other services from Phillips and 3M Co. There’s also the possibility of Microsoft forcing Nuance to use Microsoft’s Office suite of products. Microsoft and Nuance did not comment on the report, but the potential antitrust investigation could be the reason for a delay in the final parts of Microsoft’s acquisition.
It’s being reported that the timeline for the original deal to close could fall into early next year. That’s even with the U.S. Department of Justice already approving the deal in June, and the Australian Competition Commission in October. As for the European Union, antitrust regulators have until December 21, 2021, to approve the Microsoft acquisition, or take another route and open a bigger investigation.
What makes Microsoft’s acquisition of Nuance different from previous ones from companies like Amazon or Google is the potential access to data. According to Reuters, Microsoft could have “unfettered” access to Nuance customer data for research and development. This would be to aid Microsoft’s own Artificial Intelligence offerings.
Nuance already has the dragon speech recognition software, which helped build Apple’s Siri. The company also claims that its services are in 77% of hospitals in the United States.
Microsoft has not faced as much scrutiny in the United States when it comes to antitrust issues. Its competitors, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google have been under the eyes of Congress in various antitrust hearings in the past year.
Apple was under investigation for the 30% charge it puts on app store developers. Amazon was accused of using data about independent sellers on the company’s platform. Facebook, meanwhile, was accused of buying up competitors, and Google for monitoring data on the usage of third-party apps on Google devices and then using it to design Google-owned products.
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