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EC Finalises Windows Browser Choice

Gordon Kelly


EC Finalises Windows Browser Choice

While many may have thought the Windows browser battle was ancient history it is only today that the European Commission has officially finalised details of the agreement with Microsoft.

So what's the what? Under the commitments approved by the Commission, Microsoft will make available for five years a 'Choice Screen' enabling users of XP, Vista and Windows 7 to choose which web browser(s) they wish to install in addition to, or instead of, Microsoft Internet Explorer. The ballot screen (mock up image used) will be delivered to users via Windows Update, will only apply to European regions and its effectiveness reviewed every six months. In addition computer manufacturers will be able to install competing web browsers, set those as default and turn Internet Explorer off.

"Millions of European consumers will benefit from this decision by having a free choice about which web browser they use," said EU competition commissioner Neelie Kroes. "Such choice will not only serve to improve people's experience of the Internet now but also act as an incentive for web browser companies to innovate and offer people better browsers in the future."

It's hard to argue with the logic of the decision either:

"The Commission’s preliminary view was that competition was distorted by Microsoft tying Internet Explorer to Windows. This was because it offered Microsoft an artificial distribution advantage not related to the merits of its product on more than 90 per cent of personal computers. Furthermore, the Commission's preliminary view was that this tying hindered innovation in the market and created artificial incentives for software developers and content providers to design their products or web sites primarily for Internet Explorer."

Cynics may argue Microsoft got itself into a position of dominance with Windows and should be able to bundle whatever they like and Mac OS X should also be subject to the same ruling and I have some sympathy with that viewpoint. Then again, with IE so horrendously off the pace and the majority of users still in that dark about superior alternatives it's hard not to be pleased at this outcome.

The only details we are now missing are 1. When will the ballot screen go live, 2. What does it look like? and 3. Which browsers will be offered and in what order? We've heard rumours that as many as 12 could be listed, but so many may serve only to confuse.

Still, we're glad this thorny issue is now resolved and it will be curious to see what happens to browser market share as a result. Now, if you don't mind I'll indulge myself in a moment of smugness. Back in June when the nonsensical Windows 7 E was announced I declared:

So if an effort to collect Microsoft's dummy and stick it firmly back into its mouth let me present two alternative sane solutions to this mess:

1. Bundle the major browsers with Windows 7 and give users a choice of which to install. Over time the versions will get old but it matters little given the inevitable Service Packs that will appear and automatic browser update notifications users will receive. This is hardly fantasyland since Microsoft is accustomed to providing third party drivers with Windows, so why not software?

2. Bundle Internet Explorer but the first time it runs make it load a web page highlighting the other browser options on the market. Since this is a web page the links can be kept up to date with the latest browser versions and market players. The presentation and wording of this page can be set by the European Commission.

Both options should work just fine. Oh and Microsoft, given the millions you waste on a crack legal team to come up with such nonsense as 'Windows 7 E' I'll let you have these little pieces of common sense for free...

Logic, it's a wonderful thing...


Press Release


December 16, 2009, 6:46 pm

I'm all for the ballot screen but "In addition computer manufacturers will be able to install competing web browsers, set those as default and turn Internet Explorer off" that's what annoys me as it just screems BLOATware to me, I much prefer the ballot screen option as all it takes is, say, a manufacturer to install say opera for me and that's just another thing I have to uninstall (that may not remove entirely) just because I use FF and just have IE not as default (which there is a reason I leave it on the system), I much prefer to get IE then just choose FF, plus will it help consumers if every new PC they buy comes with a different browser say if they are used to chrome they prob dont want FF or at least wonder why has it changed if they don't know what has happened (bit of a rant but oh well)


December 16, 2009, 7:59 pm

i thought this whole thing started because IE didn't conform to some open web standards, and instead forced people to go by microsoft's standards, which in the world of the internet isn't open.

either way, expect internet explorer's market share rise dramatically, because people will choose it because it has "internet" in its name.


December 16, 2009, 9:30 pm

As much as I dislike IE, I think the EC should shove it. I wonder what is their take on the Chrome OS, which is the ultimate browser lock-in. Don't see them forcing Apple not to bundle Safari or Nokia to unbundle its Webkit browser...


December 17, 2009, 12:09 am

@ilovethemonkeyhead: I've always wondered why that mattered when 99% of web designers have no clue anyway and invalidate any sense an HTML standard might make by contorting it to do stupid things like fixed width webpages or sizing text in pixels.

And I do agree it is ridiculous just applying it to Microsoft. If they have to do it then Mac OS and the Commercial Linux Distros should have to offer a choice too.


December 17, 2009, 1:32 am

it is a funny how some grown people can act like small children. where this story should end. what about windows explorer(norton comander), notepad (notepad++), paint(paint.net), wordpad (open office), messinger(any jabber client) and all other applications you got with windows. and what about other OSs? are they going to offer alternatives for every application they have? and why stop here... what about phones? now I want alternative music player on my sony walkmen, and my cooker has patetic timer, I'm sure there is some company which offer better solution...

I want to know how much money they spent on this "work" and why? (real "why", not some crappy story about evil microsoft)


December 17, 2009, 3:16 am

Always thought this was a farce from the start. Why pick on just the browser? Is there a screen to select your favourite Text Editor (Notepad)? NO! Is there one for your favourite Media Player? NO! Image Editor? NO! File Manager? NO etc, etc, etc. Do other OS's get forced to do the same thing? NO! FFS, Google are building an OS around a browser (like what MS were doing...ish!) and that is totally fine - will they get banned from realising it because it is anti-competitive? NO! ....and quite rightly so. It's not like it actually makes any difference, anyone who even understands what the screen is asking them (which, if they are installing Windows themselves they probably will do) would have just downloaded their browser of choice anyway! Well done EU, thanks for saving me again. Excuse me while I go and eat my straight banana!


December 18, 2009, 1:46 am

It's not fair, but it's the best they can do. I for one prefer this because whenever I start a new computer, I'm instantly to chrome, so this will save a few precious minutes that can be used installing other software.


December 18, 2009, 6:39 am

@dark.. How will this save you time? If Chrome is included on the DVD then it will be out of date within weeks, so you will have to download the latest version anyway. If it isn't then you will still have to download it. Exactly what have you saved? The 30 seconds it takes to load another browser and type in "Chrome" into Google!?! Brilliant, wasn't that a fantastic use of tax payers money. PAH!

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