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

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


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Opera doesn't like the idea. What a surprize.

    Guess they're showing their true colors now. It's not about fair competition, it's about Opera getting free distribution.

    Here MS has completely surrendered and Opera (and the EU) is still complaining. Go figure. :)
    • I was waiting for this

      Real motive revealed. No free luch Opera. Time to compete like the rest of the big boys.
      • Possibly it is time for IE to compete

        on an equal footing with the other browser vendors instead of getting a free ride.
        Let us wait for the verdict.
        And why do IE fanboi's get so afraid of the drop down menu? Is it because IE is hopeless in front of the other browsers? I would have thought that a company really confident of its superiority would have welcomed the drop down menu, or does Microsoft know deep down that IE is hopeless?
        • You haven't been paying attention.

          If you have been paying attention Microsoft has been making IE more and more compatible with open standards. I use Firefox exclusively, as do many other people. The day's of IE lock-in are now over.

          You can finally brush that chip off your shoulder.

          Microsoft has come to terms that the money is no longer in holding the largest share of browser installations, rather it is in the platform/runtime that can run in any browser.

          • No chip on shoulder here

            I know about Microsoft increasingly supporting open standards here. I was just responding to a fanboy like statement. If market share reflected quality, IE would have been dead and buried by now.
        • it's not fanboism...

          It feels highly Unamerican (as this decision comes from the EU, it is) to force a company to hock it's competitors wares. This might be normal in the EU, but here?

          If MS wants to play in Europe, they should realize Europe in not America.
          • I always thought that

            If MS or any other company want to ply their trade in a region, they have to follow the rules of that region.
            Furthermore, wait for the verdict, and do not equate Microsoft with the US. This is a commercial fight, not a nationalistic one. It is very easy to call it an Europe vs US fight, but remember, even though the complaint was lodged by Opera, all other companies which have supported Opera have been American companies(Mozilla, Google).
            Sometimes, seeing the responses, I feel that Microsoft marketing is at overdrive trying to portray this as a Europe vs America fight to garner support rather than the commercial fight it really is.
          • EU = Command Economy

            The EU is trying to ram their jingoistic vision of a socialist workers paradise (communism) down the throat of EU consumers.

            In this vision of paradise, only European companies succeed, while evil American companies always fail.

            I get it, really I do ...
            Too Old For IT
          • I really wish...

            ...that you people would leave your typical extremist views out of this. [b]It has [i]nothing[/i] to do with politics[/b] in the terms that you are trying to suggest. Communism? You don't have a clue do you? Just because the GOP suggest that those untrustworthy Europeans are all red bastartds don't make it so. You do realise that your whole political system is [i]based[/i] on the Franco-socialist system, before the term 'socialism' was coined? But hey, let's not let history and the truth cloud your jingoistic views. Lets ignore the fact that Microsoft habitually lie and are convicted monopolists. Lets ignore the fact that the majority party in the European Parliament is a Right-wing Christian democrat party. No, let your jingoism and protectionist conspiracy theories rule the day...
          • Oh, wouldst that it were true...

            I fear this is much less commercial than political. It's just more of the EU's unstated policy that "success in great abundance must be scrutinized and squelched for the common good".
            ReadWryt (error)
        • um...

          [i]Possibly it is time for IE to compete[/i]

          Isn't that what MS is doing with Windows 7 E? With no browser installed, MS, Opera, Mozilla, and everyone else has to compete. It's exactly what you're asking for.

          [i]And why do IE fanboi's get so afraid of the drop down menu?[/i]

          I assume you mean the "ballot" system for choosing a browser. As has been said before, why should MS be required to promote other's browsers? Would you require a Chevy dealer to promote Fords in their showrooms? That's insane.

          Oh and before you go off about what a "fanboi" I am... this was typed in FF.
          • If it does give the choice back, well yes

            Then I am all for it. However, I strongly suspect this will just be another wink nod response. MS to OEMs: You can preinstall IE you know, and "wink"you will get a special discount on Windows for that
            OEM: Nods
            Actually there is no non controversial solution to this problem. Money power will win in the end. And the money presently is in MS's pockets.
          • Actually, choice never left...

            everybody is free to choose NEVER to click on the Big Blue "E". I don't know what all this handwringing is about, or why they aren't going after Apple/Safari the same way...
            ReadWryt (error)
          • Wrong

            If you have to go to a site that requires ActiveX, you have to use IE.

            Now you can say "don't go to those websites" but if I have a requirement that requires me to go to those sites where no alternatives exist, then I have no choice. It then becomes a specious argument on your part.

            When it comes to Microshaft, you can never say never.
            Wintel BSOD
          • Why are you so against choice?

            What's wrong with the ballot option? The OEMs already put crapware on there against M$'s own wishes, so additional things that give people a real choice, they shouldn't have any problem with.

            Besides, I'd still have to have two browsers anyway. FF for general stuff and IE to access corporately owned, ActiveX infected sites like M$'s own websites, Secunia, etc...
            Wintel BSOD
          • There has always been choice

            The entire EU argument is specious.
          • Then stop bundling

            Then they'll have no argument...
            Wintel BSOD
          • @ anythingbutvista: Gee...

            [b]Then they'll have no argument...[/b]

            I DO believe that's the whole point of Windows E... Isn't it?
          • @Wolfie2K3

            They wouldn't have done it voluntarily without sanctions.

            That's the way corporate monopolies operate. With the legal system holding a gun to their head.
            Wintel BSOD
          • Stop bundling

            that's exactly what MS is suggesting, you're flip flopping between un-bundle and bundle-all (ballot).