Microsoft will start rolling out the European-Commission-stipulated browser-ballot screen, which will present to Windows users a list of browser choices, as of the week of February 22.
As a result of its antitrust settlement with the European Commision in the Opera browser-bundling case, Microsoft is required to offer he browser ballot screen -- which lists the top 10 (by market share) browsers that run on Windows, with information about each -- to Windows users in most of the countries in Europe.
A limited external roll-out kicks off next week in the United Kingdom, Belgium and France, with the full-scale rollout across Europe commencing around March 1, according to a blog February 19 blog post by Dave Heiner, Microsoft Vice President and Deputy General Counsel.
Starting next week, users in the early-rollout countries can choose to download the browser-ballot update from Windows Update. Once the full-scale rollout begins, Microsoft plans to offer the update as an automatic download via Windows Update for Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7. More specifics from Heiner's post:
"The software update will be installed automatically, or will prompt you to download or install it, depending on which operating system you are running and your settings for Windows Update. If you do not have automatic updating enabled, you can get the choice screen by going to Windows Update and clicking on 'Check for Updates.'"
Via the ballot, users will be presented with three options: "Install" to install one of the listed browsers; "Tell Me More" to get more information on the various browsers (with links and logos provided by each vendor); and "Select Later" to postpone having to make a default browser selection.
Microsoft originally fought hard against the browser ballot — to the point where the company almost went so far as to create a whole new Windows 7 SKU (Windows 7E) that wouldn’t provide a way for users to get on the Internet and choose a browser. In the end, the Softies decided to settle rather than fight, and the soon-to-be-implemented browser ballot is the result.