Major tech companies banning competing products' usage for its employees is not unheard of. The recent Huawei blacklist has forced many tech giants to stop using Huawei products in office due to fear of retribution from the US government. Now, Microsoft has gone ahead and said that it will be banning the use of popular workspace app Slack for its employees.
The company has also placed Amazon Web Services, a major competitor to is own Azure, and Google Docs which competes with Microsoft Office, on its list of "prohibited and discouraged technology." The information comes from a report by Geekwire which has said that even tools like Grammarly and Kaspersky are present on this list alongside surprisingly Github's cloud version which Microsoft itself had acquired a year back.
Reasons given for the ban on Slack, as per the report, was to prevent any risk to Microsoft's IP. Microsoft Teams is a product >that competes with Slack.
"Slack Free, Slack Standard and Slack Plus versions do not provide required controls to properly protect Microsoft Intellectual Property (IP). Existing users of these solutions should migrate chat history and files related to Microsoft business to Microsoft Teams, which offers the same features and integrated Office 365 apps, calling and meeting functionality," said Microsoft as per the report.
Regarding Google Docs and Amazon Web Services, the company has said that employees would have to show "business justification" for the usage of both these services. "It is highly recommended to start a migration plan to Azure prior to engaging the Governance team for new request or renewals," the company said.
Grammarly has been prohibited because "they are able to access Information Rights Management (IRM) protected content within emails and documents."
This move smacks of Microsoft trying to force down its own apps on its employees. One could say that Microsoft has the complete rights to enforce only its own app usage within the company. But having such closed systems is nothing but hubris. If Microsoft Teams, Azure and Office 365 are good enough, it's best if the choice is left to its employees to make that decision. Giving justifications such as 'Slack does not provide controls to protect Microsoft IP' or 'Use of AWS needs business justification' is just a cop out on Microsoft's part and shows its lack of confidence of its own products, that it is left with no choice but to put these restrictions in place.