European regulators, Opera weigh in on Microsoft's Windows 7 E plan

Summary:At the end of the day Microsoft acknowledged its plan to ship a browser-less version of Windows 7 in the European Union to attempt to appease antitrust regulators, those same regulators and Opera Software weighed in on Redmond's plan.

At the end of the day Microsoft acknowledged its plan to ship a browser-less version of Windows 7 in the European Union to attempt to appease antitrust regulators, those same regulators and Opera Software weighed in on Redmond's plan.

Neither the European regulators nor Opera, the company which originally filed the antitrust case over browser-bundling against Microsoft in 2007, is completely keen on Microsoft's proposed self-inflicted remedy. But the European Commission (EC) did like the bulk of Microsoft's solution.

A quick recap for those who missed the most recent fireworks in the Microsoft-Opera case: On June 11, Microsoft execs said they are planning to ship in Europe a version of Windows, designated Windows 7 E, that would not include Internet Explorer (IE) 8 as a bundled component. If PC makers want to preload a browser on new Windows 7 machines there, they will need to strike separate licensing deals with Microsoft and/or other browser makers. And customers who buy the product at retail will have to get their browser via FTTP, CD or some other means in order to get onto the Internet.

EC regulators said in a statement that they found a lot to like in Microsoft's plan to strip IE out of Windows 7 and subsequently allow PC makers to add back in Microsoft's or a variety of third-party browsers. But they were unhappy with the way Microsoft was removing choice for customers who bought Windows 7 at retail, by providing them with no browser at all. The EC regulators added that they had not been considering requiring MIcrosoft to remove IE from Windows 7 as one of the potential remedies in the case.

(The full EC memo on Microsoft's Windows 7 E proposal is here.)

Opera officials, for their part, said Microsoft's proposal didn't address the heart of the company's complaint. Opera Chief Technology Officer Håkon Wium Lie provided this statement on June 11:

"We note with intereste that Microsoft now seems capable of separating IE from Windows. However, we do not believe that Microsoft's move will restore competition for desktop browsers. Most users get their operating systems from the OEM channel and Microsoft will recommend that OEMs pre-install IE8. As such, users are unlikely to be given a genuine choice of browsers.

"We believe that the idea of a 'ballot screen' is better: when going online, users will be asked which browser(s) they prefer to use. The browser(s) of choice will the painlessly be installed and ready for use."

The ballot-screen remedy, one of the options the EC has been mulling, is one possible remedy Microsoft is hoping to avoid, as company officials noted in an official statement yesterday.

Topics: Microsoft, Browser, Government, Government : US, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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