Dear Microsoft, this is not really the solution we had in mind...
The Redmond giant has announced it will ship Windows 7 in Europe without Internet Explorer after coming under pressure from the European Commission over anti-competitive browser behaviour. This baby-out-with-the-bathwater move follows court action which began in 2007 off the back of a similar seven year antitrust lawsuit about the bundling of Windows Media Player with Windows.
In a statement today Microsoft Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Dave Heiner explained: "Microsoft filed its response to the Commission's Statement of Objections in April. We believe we made a strong showing that including Internet Explorer in Windows is lawful so that no remedy is needed. We hope that the Commission will ultimately agree with us."
He continued: "In the meantime, we have to move forward with final planning for the release of Windows 7, so we've decided that instead of including Internet Explorer in Windows 7 in Europe, we will offer it separately. As noted, we will continue to discuss browser issues and other matters with the Commission."
Microsoft added that an 'E' will be attached to all Windows 7 versions sold in Europe to signify the change, for example: 'Windows 7 Home Premium E'.
Naturally all this is incredibly daft. The antitrust lawsuit was all about giving customers a clear choice in what browser they use and Microsoft's decision simply makes the lives of PC makers and its own customers far more difficult. After all, how do you choose a browser when you can't get online in the first place? Perhaps not such an issue for tech savvy users with multiple computers but for the masses it could prove a real pain.
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...