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Microsoft’s app-store pledges are a great example of stakeholder capitalism

February 10, 2022, 11:12 AM UTC

Good morning. David Meyer here in Berlin, filling in for Alan.

Microsoft has made a significant move to get ahead of incoming antitrust regulation (in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere) with a series of pledges around its app stores.

The pledges came in a blog post, by Microsoft president Brad Smith, that addressed not only the under-development laws, but also the company’s $68 billion mega-purchase of game developer Activision Blizzard, which needs to pass antitrust regulators’ scrutiny. As Fortune‘s Chris Morris wrote yesterday, there’s a key promise in there to keep providing the Call of Duty franchise on Sony’s PlayStation platform, rather than making it Xbox-exclusive. That’s certainly the big headline—and it will surely help to impress the regulators—but some of the other promises are more far-reaching.

Now, obviously Microsoft is a veteran of the antitrust scene—”we’ve learned from our experience,” Smith wrote—but it’s managed to keep its nose clean for quite a few years now, and must be enjoying the opportunity to make promises about things that have recently gotten its Big Tech rivals into regulatory trouble.

So, Smith said Microsoft will hold its own apps to the same standards as the others and treat all apps equally without giving preferential treatment to its own in rankings (hi, Google!). He also promised Microsoft will “not use any non-public information or data from our app store to compete with developers’ apps” (greetings, Amazon and Meta/Facebook). For its Windows store, Microsoft “will not require developers in our app store to use our payment system to process in-app payments” (how you doing, Apple?)

This strategy strikes me as smart, respectful and meaningful, and well-communicated too—essentially, this is what stakeholder capitalism should look and sound like, at least in my view. After all, would you rather be this company or the one placing ads for people to “write and edit statements, blog posts, op-eds, narratives, executive talking points and other written materials defending the company, often on very tight deadlines”?

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Separately, a quick update on the push by Moderna shareholders to force the company to report on the feasibility of transferring COVID vaccine intellectual property and technical knowledge to manufacturers in low- and middle-income countries. The SEC has refused to agree to Moderna’s attempted blockage of the proposal being considered at its upcoming shareholder meeting, and those behind the proposal—including Oxfam America—are happy.

Oxfam’s Robbie Silverman: “As the world approaches six million deaths from COVID-19, Moderna is uniquely positioned to help bring about an end to the pandemic if it is transparent and shares vaccine technology… Today, we are encouraged to see that the SEC agrees that as shareholders, we can urge the company to study the feasibility of such a transfer.”

Given that the WHO and South African scientists have already made huge progress in making an mRNA COVID vaccine based on Moderna’s sequence, it will be difficult for the company to keep arguing against that feasibility. More news below.

David Meyer


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This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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