Microsoft agrees to give choice of browsers to Windows 7 users in Europe

Microsoft agrees to give choice of browsers to Windows 7 users in Europe

Summary: Microsoft is willing to give Windows 7 users in Europe a choice of browsers, rather than simply no browser. The European Commission announced on its Web site on July 24 that Microsoft has now proposed as part of settlement talks to allow the "ballot screen" to be included in Windows 7.


Microsoft is willing to give Windows 7 users in Europe a choice of browsers, rather than simply no browser.

The European Commission (EC)announced on its Web site on July 24 that Microsoft has now proposed as part of settlement talks to allow a "ballot screen" to  be included in Windows 7. Microsoft initially was dead-set against allowing the inclusion of a ballot screen which would prompt users at set-up to select among a number of different browsers, including Internet Explorer (IE) 8, as its legal representatives made clear earlier this year.

The ballot screen was one of the ideas the EC regulators were floating as a possible remedy in the Microsoft vs. Opera antitrust case that Opera lodged in late 2007. The case involves whether Microsoft has harmed consumers and competitors by bundling Internet Explorer with Windows. Microsoft and the EC have been in settlement talks for the past month or so.

More from the European Commission Web site:

"Under the proposal, Windows 7 would include Internet Explorer, but the proposal recognises the principle that consumers should be given a free and effective choice of web browser, and sets out a means – the ballot screen - by which Microsoft believes that can be achieved. In addition OEMs would be able to install competing web browsers, set those as default and disable Internet Explorer should they so wish. The Commission welcomes this proposal, and will now investigate its practical effectiveness in terms of ensuring genuine consumer choice."

It sounds like Windows 7 E is off the table. Windows 7 E is still seemingly on the table -- at least until the EC accepts Microsoft's new ballot-screen proposal. (See the end of this post for more details.)

Windows 7 E is  a version of Windows 7 Microsoft is building that will not include any browser. Microsoft said earlier this year that Windows 7 E would be the one and only version of Windows 7 it planned to field in Europe.

In today's statement, the European antitrust regulators made their distaste for Windows 7 E clear, but indicated they might go for a combination of Windows 7E plus the ballot screen:

"As the Commission indicated in June (see MEMO/09/272 ), the Commission was concerned that, should Microsoft's conduct prove to have been abusive, Microsoft's intention to separate Internet Explorer from Windows, without measures such as a ballot screen, would not necessarily have achieved greater consumer choice in practice and would not have been an effective remedy."

Microsoft is preparing an official statement, officials said. Once that's out, I will update this post.

Update: Yes, Windows 7 E is still on the table, but only up until the time the EC accepts Microsoft's just-released ballot-screen proposal.  If and when regulators agree to that, Microsoft will no longer offer Windows 7 E in Europe. Here's the explanation from Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith:

"If this proposal is ultimately accepted, Microsoft will ship Windows in Europe with the full functionality available in the rest of the world. "

If regulators accept Microsoft's ballot-screen proposal, Smith said, Microsoft will begin working with OEMs at that time to get the ballot screen incorporated onto new Windows 7 PCs. Windows 7 machines -- at least so far -- are still slated to go on sale in Europe and the rest of the world starting October 22.

Microsoft will publish, as requested by EC regulators, Microsoft's new settlement proposal on the company's Web site.

Smith also said today that it has agreed as part of the settlement terms with the EC to "promote interoperability between third party products and a number of Microsoft products, including Windows, Windows Server, Office, Exchange, and SharePoint."

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


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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  • Who does this help?

    I hope they include the metrics of this ballot screen in their Customer Improvement Program and track the selections people make... I would love to know what people are selecting when they're given a choice.

    That said, since they're gonna go down this path, why not do the same for media players? Oh wait, there aren't any viable media player alternatives left aside from iTunes and that on its own would be anti-competitive.
    • This is great...

      A ballot screen eh? I think when I go to buy a new car there should be a ballot screen to let me choose from a list of different engines from different companies to go in it.

      This is silliness. Including IE in Windows was and still is perfectly logical and not anti-competitive. This was always a dumb argument. Just make a better product and people will use it. I use Firefox almost exclusively...and IE is on all my PCs. I just almost never open it.

      They should have just dismissed the case as completely worthless.
      • Exactly [NT]

      • Dangerous

        thing to open the car analogy. It can always be argued in a million and one ways.

        BTA I think the ballot screen is a great idea for both sides. The 7 E would have been more damaging for Windows with respects to getting people to use IE as it would be for Europe seemingly forcing an issue which would have left users browserless without additional media.
        Viva la crank dodo
      • Re:

        Answer these questions:

        Does MS have a monopoly?

        Have they used illegal and nefarious ways to extend the monopoly?

        Is MS above the law?

        • They were found to be a monopoly

          but only after both the DoJ and the EU specifically stated that Apple did not compete. The ridiculousness of that ruling is made evident by the fact that Apple now has a 91% marketshare in the $1,000+ PC market and 100% of those come with OS X and Safari pre-installed.
          • re

            So you don't believe they are a monopoly then?

            what about their practices?

          • What about their practices?

            While MS supposedly had this monopoly:
            1. PC makers (the victims) were making record profits.
            2. PCs cost significantly less than Macs and Sun workstations.
            3. Linux was born.

            Now, compare that to a well known maker of 95% of consumer music players:
            1. The product costs significantly more than everything else.
            2. The maker adds "patches" to break competing devices that try to interact with them.

            So, what was that about monopolistic practices?
          • Re:

            Ok, I guess we'll agree that Apple has done things that resemble Microsoft's practices to a degree.

            See NZ, we can agree. I'll not argue that at all but you still don't answer the question.

            if your reply is to query me as to how I feel about apple, I will tell you that I think that they should not do that, should be fined, and then regulated in the portable music player field. That bit about the Palm Pre was in bad faith in my opinion and should cause the powers that be to do something to stem the anti-competitive monopoly abuse that Apple is doing.

            Now, what about MS's abuses? You know, they still can't seem to stop in some instances. You know, like when they say that they hold patents that cover Linux but then do not disclose them only to keep repeating the claim. That's bad faith on their part.

            And yes, all made money and PC's are cheaper than Mac, but does that make their practices right?
          • Predatory monopolies are harmful

            [i]And yes, all made money and PC's are cheaper than Mac, but does that make their practices right?[/i]

            My point was that the PC makers weren't harmed (they made record profits) and consumers weren't harmed (they got less expensive computers).

            People [b]always[/b] had the choice to buy Apple or Sun but they were [b]so[/b] expensive. PC makers [b]always[/b] had the choice to build their own OS just like Apple and Sun did but that would made [b]their[/b] computers much more expensive.

            Did MS compete hard? Absolutely, but they always had Apple there to keep them somewhat honest. People have [b]always[/b] had the choice to switch to Apple since a Mac has [b]always[/b] had the ability to surf, email, word process, play games, have custom business apps written, etc.
          • Revisionist BS

            "My point was that the PC makers weren't harmed..."

            Withholding new windows versions after general availability (e.g. IBM)
            because of their continued support for OS2 wasn't harmful?

            Charging higher prices to OEMs shipping Netscape browser wasn't

            Restricting access to windows for companies supporting alternatives
            OSes wasn't harmful?

            "...and consumers weren't harmed (they got less expensive

            Consumers were found to be paying significantly above market prices
            for windows due to lack of competition.

            MS destroyed Netscape to tie software to the Win32 API, reducing

            MS deliberately broke Novell authentication, and refused to provide
            technical information, to remove them as a competitor in the
            workgroup market.

            MS has been forced to pay billions in compensation to US consumers
            because of their monopoly profiteering.

            "People always had the choice to buy Apple or Sun but they were so

            Sun was workstations, so a completely different market.

            Apple was threatened by MS over it's support for Netscape and
            availability of Quicktime on windows platforms. MS threatened to
            withdraw a profitable product to kill competition in these growing
            market segments. This wasn't harmful?

            "PC makers always had the choice to build their own OS just like Apple
            and Sun did but that would made their computers much more

            Actually some did. MS withdrew windows availability, or charges
            higher prices so they couldn't compete.

            This is beyond ignorance, into the territory of paid for revisionist BS!
            Richard Flude
          • Talk about revisionist BS Richard.....

            Microsoft most often dealt with OEMs not using their software by reducing their advertising subsidies. You can try to turn that into "making them pay more" but what you are suggesting is that MS foot the advertising bill for Netscape. The OEMs had and have total free will. They just lose MS helping pay for advertising (mostly) if they decide to sell other vendor products. That sounds perfectly reasonable and if they hadn't it would have been idiotic.
            Let's say you have a business. Would you shell out for your competitors advertising just so they had a chance against your product?
            How ridiculous. You and the other ABM zealots keep going back to TWO incidents.....DR and Netscape and that is ALL you have that says MS used it's monopoly to "crush" the competition.
            I suggest you read the Wikipedia entries for both DR-DOS Netscape to learn the real reason they failed to compete. There was nothing that MS did to make them drop out.....Novell pulled DR-DOS in one case, which was noting more than a horribly stupid business move, and the other shot themselves in the foot by not supporting HTML after version 4.0 Why would ANYone buy a browser that didn't support current HTML?
            You have to do better than that Richard. <br>
            Btw, you might want to check on the Linux Botnets running wild. At Ebay they found that FAR more Linux boxes were root-kitted and part of a botnet than Windows machines.
            WHAT A HOOT!!!! <br>
          • xuniL_z is wrong

            xuniL_z writes:

            "Microsoft most often dealt with OEMs not using their software by
            reducing their advertising subsidies. "

            MS was found to be charging different OEM prices in the DoJ vs MS
            case. The DoJ settlement restricts MS from abusing OEM pricing.

            "How ridiculous. You and the other ABM zealots keep going back to
            TWO incidents.....DR and Netscape and that is ALL you have that says
            MS used it's monopoly to "crush" the competition. "

            Sure if you ignore the Apple and Novell examples provided. The
            settlement awarded to Sun, ...

            "I suggest you read the Wikipedia entries..."

            Joking right? I suggest you read the court proceedings.

            "Btw, you might want to check on the Linux Botnets running wild. At
            Ebay they found that FAR more Linux boxes were root-kitted and part
            of a botnet than Windows machines. "


            Nice work, more untruths from the NMBers then a confusing off topic
            Richard Flude
          • The fact that Linux Botnets exist is confusing?

            As for your allegations, please provide backing data that shows where Microsoft was actually guilty, or admitted to any such wrongdoing. In civil cases, unfortunately, proof is not a requirement and consumer protection is not part of AT cases as it was in the days of the AT&T monopoly, which was a a true monopoly. :(

            If as you say, SUN is "workstations" it "Doesn't Apply" in response to the simple question of why could not SUN build their own competing OS, then how could MS hurt SUN? They didn't do "Workstations"? Why was SUN trying to ride on top of Microsoft? Was it "workstation" related?

            Besides, only a government shill could feel bad for SUN after being funded and provided with Darpa technology, in which the taxpayers got "Screwed". They footed the bill for a modern secure Unix, and they didn't even get a free "workstation". Now considering the Feds paid for SUN's startup essentially, along with granting them Anti Trust think I'm going to shed a tear for SUN when they realized they were in the wrong business? McNeally jabbed at Microsoft every year and why? Because he could not do what Gates had?
            Was MS a monopoly from the moment they incorporated? How so?

            It's interesting that in your eyes MS creates horrible software, yet not a single vendor of the pre-MS era could come up with a mass market OS and hardware model.
            Why couldn't SUN have simply written their own commercial OS and windowing system and market it? Were they incapable of it, and Microsoft was?
            Why didn't DR simply write their own windowing system instead of trying to ram their DOS up microsoft's arse? They had time to compete, MS didn't stop them, Novell and it's actions cause DR-DOS to be pulled off the market basically.

            And some how I think normal business with Apple has been labeled "threats" here. Is this the same way that Apple has "threatened" the music industry? Doesn't matter whose side you are on, they have used their massive power to push other companies to do their bidding.
            So why is that not a predatory monopolistic practice?

            What about Pystar? Apple is doing everything it can to kill off any competition it has, just like when Steve Jobs refused to give BeOS Essential G3 specifications and Killed Off BeOS. THAT was not Harmful!?! Of course you and all other microphobes somehow blame that on Microsoft too.

            What about the numerous times Apple and Google have sent their army of lawyers to some small town, in the U.S. or abroad to Squash a small company whose name conflicts with one of their brands? Even non trademarked names, like "pod". That is not harmful?

            The ipod/itunes combination, as is the Mac/OSx a monopoly. So why should Apple get a free pass again? And I'm not talking about from U.S. anti trust, but from those posting here who see it happening every day.
            MS was an agressive company but Never moreso than what Apple and Google (just as 2 examples) demonstrate regularly. Now imagine we Had Access to ALL of their EMAIL.

            Wired Aug. 2009 has an Article about Google and how Obama's new "top cop" for AT has said MS is history, no longer relevant....but Google has her full attention and is under scrutiny. They are going to have to watch every step they make. In the article the Wired writer is interviewing Schimdt and allowing him to make statements w/o one hard question back. It's hilarious. He wrote that Google created "Chrome", largely as a "check" on Microsoft. OMG, this writer is in Schmidt's pocket the whole way. It would be funny if it weren't so sad.

            You, and the companies that were not only outmanuveured by MS, but simply way behind the genius of Bill Gates, want something they couldn't do themselves. <br>
            If not for Microsoft, the 90s would have been Apple machines that only the rich could afford and SUN workstations. The explosion of PCs for most everyone in the industrialized world and surely the driving force that made the internet what it is all due to Microsoft. All due to Bill Gate's brilliance and ideal that everyone deserves to afford a PC. There is nothing that points to anything else, or anyone else that has had that much influence on the modern world and technology as a whole.
            People like you say we've been "held back" by MS, but that's obviously not true, Apple, SUN, all of the Unixes were free to make technology more than what Windows gives us, but none of them did, have or are doing so today. Linux is still playing catchup (per Mr. Shuttleworth) to Microsoft's large integrated application stack. That is his aim now with cannonical.

            Who'd have thought this much maligned company really changed the world in a miraculously short period of time as well. We'd still be in the pre WWW days w/o Microsoft and what they contributed to every living being on the planet.
            Now Bill Gates is giving back to that planet and the people on it that are not privileged, like you and I. Yet people like you are still trying to find anything to make his Massive humanitarian efforts have an "evil" twist.
            Talk about Sour Grapes, my Lord Richard it's a lifelong, emotionally involved, stressful Obsession for you and all Zealots like you.
            That is really un-friggin-believable.
            Now just giving money is easy. Most Americans give to humanitarian causes, no matter their tax brackets, and that's another reason I love this country so much. But actually doing the work, and getting involved to the degree of Gates is beyond reproach. It obviously shows sincerity and true caring that I don't see Steve Jobs or Larry Ellison or Mr. Schmidt sacrificing their time towards.
            In any case, if you are confused about Linux Botnets, here are some links to help clear the confusion: <br>

            Not the "first", as they claim.



            "The vast majority of the threats we saw were root-kitted Linux boxes, which was rather startling. We expected Microsoft boxes," he said.


            "Unfortunately, it is increasingly clear that Linux boxes (as well as MacOS X and other UNIX boxes) are participating in botnets, but in a bit of a twist, it is mostly servers that have been subverted."

            "The attacks are largely targeted at everyone's favorite Internet security whipping boy, PHP applications. Open source PHP applications are the main target as they are ubiquitous and typically easy to exploit as some recent research indicates. An additional benefit of targeting a higher level application is that it is a cross-platform exploit; the operating system and web server software are immaterial if the target is a PHP application. "

          • Re: Apple's 91% market share.

            Just to be clear, that's 91% of > $1000 PCs sold at retail in North America.

            Across the whole north american market, they are at 7.4%

            Their marketshare world wide is <3%.
          • Nope, Apple is eating your lunch

            91% of the income from selling computers in the most profitable market
            segment, $1000+. In other words, most of the so often misunderstood
            and misused "market share" numbers are meaningless when Apple in
            spite of a low global market share makes a lot more money than e.g.

            Digest that.
          • Nah... Apple is only eating their own lunch.

            And it took them how many years to finally become profitable?

            They almost went out of business how many times?

            And they are running Intel based "PC's" and had to switch to BSD to base their OS off of to do it.

            Sure they have become profitable finally, but I hardly call them a PC killer or anything, especially considering that more people are in the lower brackets rather then the upper brakets.

            Does this business model work for them? Yes. But if every company followed their lead, who would be able to afford a computer?
          • I wonder why the EU can't digest that?

            So you obviously understand that the EU is making a huge mistake if they come back on the side of Opera then.
            Which we know is a forgone conclusion based on the precedence of it's abusive monopoly, the EC.
            They have shown in the past they can make up the rules as they go along, misinterpret "marketshare", as you've so brilliantly pointed out and many other atrocities. <br>
            Although I would point out that building marketshare with lower profits has been a golden strategy for many companies in the history of capitalism. So this is not a zero sum game, as seems to be your way of thinking.
          • Microsoft is software...

            They don't sell ANY PCs over (or under) $1,000...

            Apple compete with the likes of Dell, HP, Acer etc. but they don't sell their operating system to OEMs.

            Microsoft don't make hardware, so don't compete directly with Apple in this space, but they do sell their operating system to any OEM that wants it - a little forcefully at times.

            That said, although the original case had merit, this one is totally bogus.
          • Licensing

            MS is licensing Windows to several OEM, in fact
            most of them. Some may offer Linux in their
            PCs, but that's such an insignificant amount
            that it's negligible.

            To my knowledge doesn't Apple offer Mac OS X to
            Dell, HP or any of the other OEM and is thus
            not an alternative in THIS particular space,
            totally dominated by the redmondians.

            So Microsoft's stranglehold on these OEMs is
            the Problem, with a capital 'P'.