Microsoft’s new EU Windows 7 proposal – will IE now be the default?

I’m trying to figure out exactly what Microsoft is now proposing to the EU in order to satisfy its concerns about the “tying of Microsoft Internet Explorer web browser with Windows”.

The EU says:

This followed extensive discussions with the Commission which centred on a remedy outlined in the January 2009 Statement of Objections (see MEMO/09/15) whereby consumers would be shown a "ballot screen" from which they could – if they wished – easily install competing web browsers, set one of those browsers as a default, and disable Internet Explorer. Under the proposal, Windows 7 would include Internet Explorer, but the proposal recognises the principle that consumers should be given a free and effective choice of web browser, and sets out a means – the ballot screen – by which Microsoft believes that can be achieved.

Microsoft says:

Under our new proposal, among other things, European consumers who buy a new Windows PC with Internet Explorer set as their default browser would be shown a ‘ballot screen’ from which they could, if they wished, easily install competing browsers from the Web. If this proposal is ultimately accepted, Microsoft will ship Windows in Europe with the full functionality available in the rest of the world. As requested by the Commission, we will be publishing our proposal in full here on our website as soon as possible.

The difference I’ve noticed between these two statements is that Microsoft talks about “a new Windows PC with Internet Explorer set as their default browser.”

Is Microsoft winning the right to continue making IE the default, in exchange for offering the user an easy way to switch browsers?

I guess we will discover when the full details appear.

It is not yet a done deal. The EU is only considering the proposal; and in the meantime customers will still get the browserless Windows E.

Another question: if the change is agreed, will the full Windows 7 be available in time for launch? Microsoft implies it may not:

We currently are providing PC manufacturers in Europe with E versions of Windows 7, which we believe are fully compliant with European law. PCs manufacturers building machines for the European market will continue to be required to ship E versions of Windows 7 until such time that the Commission fully reviews our proposals and determines whether they satisfy our obligations under European law. If the Commission approves this new proposal, Microsoft will begin work at that time to begin implementation of it with PC manufacturers.

My reflection: if the EU had done this twelve years ago, it might have changed the history of the Internet, probably for the better. Today, this manoeuvring is unnecessary.

See also: EU responds to questions on Microsoft’s plans for Windows 7

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3 comments to Microsoft’s new EU Windows 7 proposal – will IE now be the default?

  • I think you might be overcomplicating this. OEMs have an absolute right to make a non-Microsoft browser the default for their own reasons. In that case, IE would not be the default and the ballot screen would not have to be shown. It seems to me that the point of the clause you’re calling out is to identify systems with a standard OEM install where the OEM has chosen not to change the default from IE8.

  • George

    When you buy a car, there’s not a gaping hole where the CD Player should be, you go with the Ford one or you replace it with another if you want. No-one claims that the Ford supplied CD players are anti-competitive and you don’t have to go to the hassle of getting one fitted when you buy a new car.

    What was wrong with the same idea with web browsers? This is just more inconvenience for those who are perfectly happy with IE and more nonsense from the EU. How come these rules don’t apply to Apple with Safari?

  • IE enforcement by Microsoft is useless. In present browser wars i prefer using either Firefox or Opera which are much more secure that IE. I expected that IE 8 would be light but still it is not. Currently I’m using firefox and happy with it.