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

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


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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  • It's about time!

    • Good first step

      I agree! This is a good first step to resolving the issue.

      The next step should be to ensure that IE is never specifically "required" to access any websites (e.g. Microsoft sites). Otherwise, people will have the ability to remove IE, but not the ability to function without IE. So what is really accomplished?
      • How exactly do you do that?

        Microsoft can't go out there and mandate how developers write their site code. Or are you now suggesting that someone (which would be the courts, I assume) should have the right to mandate other technologies?

        Suppose I come up with a plug in that ONLY works on IE (by intent - I actively *check* that it's IE and only work in that case) and it turns out that my plug in offers some really desirable functionality that's patented, so no one else can use it - and web sites start using it because it's free.

        By your logic, that suddenly becomes Microsoft's problem.

        While we're at it, let's flip the question around: what at all the plug ins for FireFox - shouldn't FireFox be mandated to make sure they all work with IE too?

        Of course not.
        • Websites can offer basic & enhanced functionality

          Websites can offer basic functionality that is compatible with open web standards (which implies support for ALL web browsers) & perhaps optional enhanced functionality if, in your example, you are using IE.

          As far as I'm aware, no websites "require" Firefox or Chrome or any other non-IE browser.

          The sooner IE is made optional on clients, the sooner websites will embrace open web standards whenever possible.
          • Come on

            Anyone who develops websites today uses web
            standards (except intranets).
          • This guarantees that Vista = Me

            It is going to be great to not have those bloats tying up time on my computer but the bull about not needing the DVD to restart using them stinks. Sounds more like they are going to make it so you're so frustrated each time an app starts to look for one of their missing apps that you just put them back in. They are then covered because it's the users choice to be using the missing apps. I say completely delete them make the software completely usable without them. For those who want to add the software include a separate disc. Then people who want to use it can add it as they see fit. Like adding an update. I use Firefox and get very frustrated when windows opens up IE every time a program needs to access the internet. Nice idea but sounds like Windows is side stepping and not really taking them out. But the real kicker is to all those who spent the money for Vista. This proves Vista is the next 'Windows Me' It is going to be phased out when 7 hits faster then Me disappeared.
          • Re; This guarantees that Vista = Me. Not quite.

            Vista may not have been the big success, but it is nothing like the flop of ME. ME was the most unstable contraption they ever made by far.

            No. ME is THE supreme flop.
            Vista, after some SP, worked for most people, but was rather resource-hungry.
      • Good going Microsoft

        The number of IE required sites is shrinking all the time. Firefox and XML proliferation has done a great job in 'helping' Microsoft see the light in open standards on the web and if you pay attention to the movements inside Microsoft you'll know that they are committed to getting everything to open standards.
      • Microsoft has no control over this.

        Every vendor designs their browsers in a way that they feel serves the customer best.

        The content provided decides which browser features to support from which vendor.

        Sometimes content providers support plug-ins which may, or may not, work with some browsers.

        The plug-in vendors make that choice.

        If we forced all standards on all browser makers, there would be no innovation at all because no one can cover all the bases the first time out.
        M Wagner
        • "a way that they feel serves the customer best"

          Rubbish, and you know that.

          Microsoft serves only their "shareholders", they have never given a damn about anything else.

          They have the whole world (except for us intelligent life-forms) being hapless consumers of pathetic software, yet we need to utilise computing to build the future.

          The sooner they die the better.
          • What are you rambling about

            Every corporation serves their shareholders and you know that.

            Microsoft is constantly adding new features and applications to their products.

            Without Microsoft, why would Mozilla/Apple/etc even want to innovate to make their products better?

            I find it very funny how in one sentence you claim you are an intelligent life-form and in the next basically say everyone who uses Microsoft are idiots.

            You do realize billions of dollars cross over Windows computers daily ranging from banks, traders, small/large businesses with little or no issues? That is no easy task. When you get an operating system with the same penetration as Windows and a few billion dollars, you let us know, until you are just a rambling village idiot claiming to be smarter than everyone else because you don't use Windows.
    • Sad to see they give in to evil communists

      • Good to see that sick filthy unabated greed is dying.

        I guess the rest of the world will have to jump in (yet again) to help.

        Help a nation a fat retards, that is.
  • Oh, good

    It's kind of silly to require WMP on machines that don't support sound (the most blatant example). This move appears to represent the reversal of a policy that never should have been implemented in the first place, so congratulations to MS on apparently doing the right thing (let it never be said that I never say anything good about MS).
    John L. Ries
  • RE: Microsoft admits users will be able to turn off IE 8 in Windows 7

    who cares?
    • Welcome to the Internet

      I'm welcoming you, because you've obviously not
      been here very long. The removal of IE as a
      mandatory Windows component is the equivalent
      of hell freezing over. Who cares? How about
      every browser developer and web designer in the
      industry? This is the first step for competitor
      browsers to make a larger dent in the IE market
      share. First it's not an absolute requirement,
      which means they developed it for removal, so
      now it's not too hard to ask it not be
      installed by default (maybe offering an
      "Install IE" or "Find a web browser online" via
      Windows Update, much like how the "Open with
      suggested application" option works when an
      unknown file type.

      We could see a complete dethroning of IE as the
      world's most dominant browser some day in the

      That's why people care.
      • Uhmm....

        It's not really removed at all, just 'turned off'. And if you so want MS to force installing no browser, how about the same with linux and mac? In addition, just because it CAN be turned off, doesn't mean anybody WILL turn it off. So all us web developers you are so happy for, don't be. It will still be the default browser. People now have a choice, and the majority doesn't use it. Frankly, if I were the average user, and installing windows, and I had a choice between a Microsoft browser, or some other 3rd party browser, I'm probably going with the OEM one. Just like I'd want Mopar breaks on my Dodge truck.
        • Re:

          That's why I said this is the first step.
        • Yep

          I always install all 3 popular browsers (IE,Opera,FF) because [b]none of them seems to work fine[/b]...! So, if the 1st does not display a page right I try the 2nd etc... Also, each browser has its good features. IE is helping me a lot under some sticky situations...
          • Good Call Ghost_Ghost

            Just like you I use a mix of browsers. IE and FF both have some features that I love and some I loath. My workshop has a mix of Stanley, Makita, Hitachi, and a whole raft of other name brands. What I buy when I buy a drill is the ability to make a hole. It's the quality of hole and the ability of the tool to make them that I care about. Sometimes I need torque, sometimes I need accuracy. I use what is best fit for the purpose at hand.
            As for standards, in my experience in a wide range of fields, not just IT, the bulk of standards emerge from the adoption of a sound commercial inovation applied in practice, not from a committee that mandates an untried theoretical purity. If standards committees dictated everything we'd all still be single celled organisms milling about in the primordial swamp, and if anyone tried to crawl out the lawyers would slap an injunction on them.