You can't understand the technology deals without being fluent in EU regulator-speak. And you also can't grasp Microsoft's next move without pondering what the European Union will do.
Luckily, the Wall Street Journal shed a little light on the EU's antitrust chief Neelie Kroes. Kroes is the one who scoffed at Microsoft's interoperability announcement last week much to the chagrin of the software giant's employees. She's the one that stands in the way of a Google-DoubleClick deal. And she's the one who you have to ask for permission to merge with any company.
It's no small issue. When kicking around a potential Microsoft-SAP deal one of the first questions is whether Kroes will support it. And she's going to be in the news even more. The EU is on the case of Intel, Microsoft (that's ongoing), Qualcomm and Rambus.
So what can we learn? Here are a few notable nuggets:
Kroes is the most feared antitrust regulator and wants a level playing field. Where Kroes differs from her U.S. counterparts is that she's proactive vs. reactive. Kroes doesn't mind pre-emptive action. The Journal reports:
- If a company is "just blocking competition, then at the end of the day, there will be a type of monopoly," she says. "If you are waiting until it is there, then it is too late."
- Kroes has a thing for Microsoft. The Journal reports: "If a company's prospects are curtailed because it can't operate in a world shaped by Microsoft, "then we have to act," she says. She considers Microsoft to be too slow to address her concerns.
- Add it up and no deal gets done without going through Kroes. For anyone following the tech merger go round knowing Kroes is critical.