Microsoft to ship Windows 7 without IE in Europe

Microsoft has confirmed that it will remove IE from European copies of Windows 7. This, it hopes, will resolve the ongoing problems it has had with the European Union's European Commission on the matter. Based on a complaint filed in December, 2007, by Opera Software (and subsequently vehemently supported by all of Microsoft's browser competitors), the EC determined that Microsoft was violating antitrust regulations by bundling IE with Windows.

Earlier today, Cnet broke the story that IE would be out of W7 in Europe when it published an internal memo about the plans. By late afternoon Microsoft confirmed this, promising that Windows 7 would be released on October 22 in Europe just as it would be released everywhere else worldwide. In a public post, Microsoft's Dave Heiner wrote,

"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.  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.  This means that computer manufacturers and users will be free to install Internet Explorer on Windows 7, or not, as they prefer. Of course, they will also be free, as they are today, to install other Web browsers."

The European edition of Windows 7 will be marked with an "E" at the end of the name .. i.e. (pun intended) Windows 7 Home Premium E. Heiner says that PC manufacturers will be on the line to install a browser, so that computer users can take their new PCs home and access the Internet without problem ... (hard to install a competitive browser without some way to get on the Internet to begin with.)

Heiner admits that even with this move, the idea floating around earlier this week for a "ballot screen" cannot be ruled out, should the EC insist. This would prompt users to select which browsers they want installed, putting IE alongside many others.

The likelihood that Europe's computer manufacturers selling Windows machines would not include Internet Explorer seems hard to believe, given how much influence Microsoft has over them. The likelihood that the typical consumer or enterprise wouldn't want IE on their new Windows 7 PCs is also hard to believe. Let's also factor in that IE's market share has been dropping like a rock in Europe, so this may actually encourage people to give IE another try, should their computer manufacturer recommend it. Net sum loss to Microsoft over this decision is likely to be zero.

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