Microsoft admits users will be able to turn off IE 8 in Windows 7

Summary:After a couple of days of "no comments," Microsoft has acknowledged the findings of a pair of bloggers who discovered that starting with the next major test release of Windows 7, Internet Explorer 8 will be able to be removed.

After a couple of days of "no comments," Microsoft has acknowledged the findings of a pair of bloggers who discovered that starting with the next major test release of Windows 7, Internet Explorer 8 will be able to be removed. Microsoft officials made this public acknowledgment via the Engineering Windows 7 blog. In a posting, dated March 6, Jack Mayo, the Group Program Manager for the Documents and Printing team, listed a set of Windows 7 features that will be able to be turned on and off by users after the initial Windows set-up. The new blog post made no mention of the Opera antitrust case against Microsoft -- a factor which many consider to be the impetus for Microsoft's decision to make IE 8 an optional, as opposed to a required, user feature. The ability to turn off IE 8 is part of Windows 7 test build 7048, but that build isn't available to the majority of testers. Most Windows 7 testers will have to wait another month or so for the public Release Candidate test build of Windows 7 to check out this option. In addition to the set of Windows Vista features that users already may opt to "deselect," Microsoft is planning to add a bunch of new ones (including IE 8) with Windows 7:
  • Windows Media Player
  • Windows Media Center
  • Windows DVD Maker
  • Internet Explorer 8
  • Windows Search
  • Handwriting Recognition (through the Tablet PC Components option)
  • Windows Gadget Platform
  • Fax and Scan
  • XPS Viewer and Services (including the Virtual Print Driver)
(The XPS Viewer is another interesting addition to this list. XPS has been a rumored antitrust-lawsuit target in the past, with Microsoft claiming Adobe was rattling some sabers about its new document format three years ago.) Mayo reiterated what will happen if a feature is turned off:

"If a feature is deselected, it is not available for use. This means the files (binaries and data) are not loaded by the operating system (for security-conscious customers) and not available to users on the computer. These same files are staged so that the features can easily be added back to the running OS without additional media. This staging is important feedback we have received from customers who definitely do not like to dig up the installation DVD."
Mayo noted that any underlying application programming interfaces (APIs) that are part of the deselected features are not removed from Windows, as this could break other OS components and/or third-party applications that call on these interfaces. Mayo did not mention at all the European antitrust case against Microsoft as one of the reasons -- if not the only reason -- that Microsoft has added IE 8 to the list of user-selectable features. However, many company watchers believe that Microsoft is attempting to head off at the pass the Opera antitrust suit over Microsoft's browser-bundling practices by providing this option. Instead, the Windows team is touting improved security, performance enhancement and user choice as the reasons that it is making a growing set of Windows features removable. Do you think Microsoft's decision to make IE 8 removable is a sound one (beyond the seeming legal reasons for it)? Will the move derail -- or at least dent -- the Opera antitrust case against Microsoft? Update: In looking over again Microsoft's list of new Windows 7 removable features, it's clear that quite a few of these seem to be litigation-inspired. IE 8 removal is clearly a response to Opera''s antitrust complaint in the EU. Windows Search removal is, no doubt, a preemptive strike against further Google legal complaints. XPS Viewer can be seen as an Adobe-antitrust-inspired choice. Media Player removal is surely a way Microsoft is hoping to avoid new antitrust-inspired cases like the one it lost a couple of years ago in the EU. Maybe the new list of Windows 7 removable features should be labeled as "Antitrust Magnets (with an "Add At Your Own Risk" warning).

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

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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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