Microsoft may deliver prompts for rival browsers

It will now be up to PC makers to decide whether to install Internet Explorer or another browser on the computers they sell.
Microsoft bowed to pressure from European regulators and announced it would release its Windows 7 operating system in Europe without its Internet Explorer web browser.

The US software giant said it still plans to release its next-generation operating system worldwide on October 22, but that customers in Europe will have to install web browsers of their choice.

"We're committed to making Windows 7 available in Europe at the same time that it launches in the rest of the world, but we also must comply with European competition law as we launch the product," Microsoft deputy general counsel Dave Heiner said.

"Given the pending legal proceeding, we've decided that instead of including Internet Explorer in Windows 7 in Europe, we will offer it separately and on an easy-to-install basis to both computer manufacturers and users."

It will now be up to PC makers to decide whether to install Internet Explorer8 or another browser on the computers they sell.

"We believe that this new approach, while not our first choice, is the best path forward given the ongoing legal case in Europe," Mr Heiner said.

In January, the European Commission said its preliminary view was that Microsoft had stifled competition in the browser market by packaging Internet Explorer and Windows together.

The antitrust investigation was prompted by a complaint from Opera, a rival browser, who was later joined in the action by Google. Internet Explorer is the most popular browser worldwide but its market share has been under attack by Mozilla's Firefox and others. Opera wanted Microsoft to offer users a choice of browsers automatically when they used their computers.

Microsoft has argued that the browser is an integral part of the user's experience and should be bundled together with the operating system. It said users were free top choose another browser if they wished.

Mr Heiner said Microsoft expects that stripping IE from Windows 7 will bolster its position that it is not bundling software in order to suffocate competition. But the Commission is likely to continue its investigations and may hit Microsoft with a fine, expected in some quarters to approach the record $1.49 billion fine recently levied on Intel.

"We will continue to discuss browser issues and other matters with the Commission," Mr Heiner said.

He added: "The E(uropean) versions of Windows 7 will include all the features and functionality of Windows 7 in the rest of the world, other than browsing with Internet Explorer. Computer manufacturers will be able to add any browser they want to their Windows 7 machines, including Internet Explorer, so European consumers who purchase new PCs will be able to access the internet without any problem. Consumers will also be able to add any Web browser to their PCs, to supplement or replace the browsers preinstalled by their computer manufacturer."

BY Mike Harvey, technology correspondent, San Francisco

Copyright 2009 Times Newspapers Ltd.



Copyright 2008-2009 Daily IT News | Contact Us