Microsoft: European XP and Vista users to get the ballot screen, too

Microsoft: European XP and Vista users to get the ballot screen, too

Summary: Microsoft posted on its Web site on July 24 the details of its proposal to the European Commision (EC) designed to settle its browser-bundling antitrust case in Europe, including the fact that Microsoft is planning to distribute the ballot screen to XP and Vista users -- not just Windows 7 ones.

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Microsoft posted on its Web site on July 24 the details of its proposal to the European Commision (EC) designed to settle its browser-bundling antitrust case in Europe.

Last Friday, European antitrust officials shared the fact that Microsoft was offering to provide Windows users a choice of browser via the so-called "ballot screen" option -- something the Commission originally advocated -- as part of its settlement talks with the EC.  Microsoft originally was dead-set against the ballot screen option; officials said the company would rather ship Windows 7 with no browser included at all than to ship one with a ballot screen.

There are some interesting tidbits in the fine print of Microsoft's propsal. For one, the "ballot screen," which Microsoft has said it will provide to allow European users a choice of browsers on their Windows PCs, isn't for Windows 7 users only. Microsoft is proposing that it be allowed to provide the ballot screen to European users running Windows XP, Vista and/or Windows 7.

The ballot screen -- which will include a list of browsers including IE, plus a number of choices from  competing vendors -- will be delivered to current and future XP and Vista users over Windows Update, according to Microsoft's proposal.

Microsoft is advocating that the ballot screen include 10 or fewer of "the most widely-used web browsers that run on Windows with a usage share of equal to or more than 0.5% in the EEA (European Economic Area)." The choice of browsers should be presented "in a horizontal line and in an unbiased way" a display of icons and "basic identifying information" on the Web browsers. The top five of the browsers listed (by market share) will get additional "prominent display," Microsoft is advocating.

(I wonder if these caveats will mean Opera, the company that brought the antitrust case against Microsoft in Europe, would make onto the ballot screen? Opera officials have said they are against the inclusion of icons, claiming it would give an unfair advantage to the easily-recognizable IE.)

XP and Vista users will get the ballot screen three to six months after the European Commission's final ruling in the Opera antitrust case. For XP users, Microsoft plans to designate the ballot screen a "high priority" update when it pushes it out over Windows Update; for Vista and Windows 7 users, the ballot screen will be designated "important," the proposal says.

Here are the specifics, from Microsoft's ballot-screen proposal:

"Microsoft will distribute a Ballot Screen software update to users within the EEA of Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows Client PC Operating Systems, by means of Windows Update as described hereafter: A software update enabling the Ballot Screen to be displayed will be made available to all current and future users of Windows XP and Windows Vista who receive updates from Windows Update.

"For Windows XP and Windows Vista users the Ballot Screen update will first be made available between 3 and 6 months after the adoption of the Commission's decision under Article 9 of Regulation 1/2003. For Windows 7, the Ballot Screen update will first be made available to users by the date of the general commercial release of Windows 7, or within two weeks of the adoption of the Commission's decision under Article 9 of Regulation 1/2003, whichever comes later. For Windows Client PC Operating Systems after Windows 7, the Ballot Screen update will first be made available at the general commercial release date of such an operating system."

Microsoft is proposing that users who set Internet Explorer (IE) as their default browser still will be allowed to choose other competing Web browsers to install via the ballot screen.

The ballot screen, as Microsoft envisions it, will include two links: An install link for connecting to a "vendor-managed distribution server," which will allow the installation of the Web browser and software to update that browser only; and an information link, which "will connect to a vendor-managed web page from which the vendor can offer users more information about its browser and installation options."

As Microsoft officials noted last week, the company will drop its plans to ship the browserless Windows 7E if and when the EC agrees to its browser-ballot concession.

Now that more details are available about the specifics of Microsoft's plan, what's your vote? Should the EC agree to the proposal as written?

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

About

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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122 comments
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  • Why is MS doing this??

    Why are they backing down? MS did exactly what Opera asked for and wanted:
    "Opera requests the Commission to implement two remedies to Microsoft?s abusive actions. First, it requests the Commission to obligate Microsoft to unbundle Internet Explorer from Windows." Did that Win7E

    "Second, it asks the European Commission to require Microsoft to follow fundamental and open Web standards accepted by the Web-authoring communities." IE8, ACID2 compliant.
    http://www.opera.com/press/releases/2007/12/13/

    Why MaryJo are they backing down when they did exactly what Opera wanted?

    "Now that more details are available about the specifics of Microsoft?s plan, what?s your vote? Should the EC agree to the proposal as written?" Really what else can they do?? I Guess it depends how big the EU's behind is and if MS can kiss all of it or not.

    NoThomas
    • Maybe to be able to bundle...

      ...somthing with <i>Internet Explorer</i>?

      Just a thought, but IE is clearly not a monopoly (any longer). If it can not be seen as illegaly leveraging a monopolistic advantage, MS is more free to bundle - say - Silverlight and Bing as search provider with the now "free" IE?

      On another note: What the h... is Opera whining about with the "icon"?? Do they think it is unfair when someone has a recognizable brand? I live in the EU, but I'm ashamed over this. Really. And Opera Software is actually based in <i>Norway</i> - a country which has chosen to stand <i>outside</i> the EU. What is going on here? Whiners.
      honeymonster
      • maybe but...

        "MS is more free to bundle - say - Silverlight and Bing as search provider with the now "free" IE?" Maybe but that would be alittle bit odd, first Silverlight is already available thru windows update or you can download it by itself. What difference would it make if it was already included? Bing? well MS search has always been the default, MS default homepage is MSN.com it you search thru it, it brings up Bing, the default search in the browser itself if you you the express method already defaults to Bing, if you customize it you can then pick your own, I think that works well myself. So again why would they do this?

        I haven't heard anything about the icon.
        NoThomas
        • Re Icon: Here you go if you are really interested

          http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/07/27/opera_microsoft_ie_proposal/

          It does sound like whining.
          AboveAverageJoe
          • I didn't believe it until I read it

            My opinion of this whole matter has been that Opera is out of line, but I thought even this was too low.

            What will satisfy this guy? Does he want users to just get a random web browser? Is that fair enough?

            Why don't you just come out and say what you [i][b]really[/b][/i] want Mr. Lie. You want Internet Explorer banned from Europe, simple as that. Seems like you don't have to be a monopoly to engage in anti-competitive behavior.
            ModernMech
          • Wow neither did I

            1st-You have a company that sues in the EU, EU law should only apply to EU.
            2nd-MS did exactly what they asked for, A. They unbundled IE from Windows. B. they made IE more compliant,http://www.opera.com/press/releases/2007/12/13/. Exactly what they asked for.
            3rd-That wasn't good enough, now opera says it should be world wide, not just in the EU.
            4th-Opera says MS should do away with their Icon that they have had since IE first came out.
            5th-What should MS do next?
            6th-Did I miss anything?
            MS gave an inch and Opera is taking 3 miles.
            I read that Opera was sueing under the same principles as the Windows Media Player suit, which of course MS had to unbundle windows media player from the OS, MS said ok and applied the same priciples (Win7E). MS should combine Win7E and Win7N to Win7NO for NO media player and NO internet and only sell that in the EU, not out of spite just common sense, I think its the only safe thing to do, that should prevent other lawsuits in the future.

            I respect MS for trying to do right and trying to work with the EU but its making them look really really weak which invites the crazies to say stuff like sell the computers without an OS or sell the OS on a stick. Which given how weak it makes them appear is not so farfetched.

            I have a question is it so farfetched that a linux distro could sue MS in order to have a ballot of which OS's MS should include on their installation DVD and which OS's you should install?
            NoThomas
          • I've lost all respect for Opera

            This is just ridiculous.
            Opera/Lie needs to get the stick out of their ass. Seriously.
            We should all spam Opera with moronic complaints and see how they like it. (=P lol)
            "Having a red O for an icon is racest to other colors and letters! Change your logo to include all of them, or we'll sue you!!!"
            asdfjhg
          • What's hard to believe?

            Opera plus a bunch of others raise an issue with the EC. The EC investigates and finds there is a case to answer for. Microsoft procrastinates, delays and then in a whoosh announces 7E, without waiting for the EC ruling. The EC lets them know that they haven't made their ruling yet, and that 7E isn't anywhere near where their thinking was going. Now they like, "Oh wait, we can offer a ballot screen" like you said you might be thinking might be ok. At best a really lame way to "negotiate" especially with 7's release coming up soon.

            What's hard to believe is that Microsoft is making such a song and dance out of this when they're behind the 8 ball and may (if they screw this up any more) get even more penalties/rulings/fines levied against them.

            Oh, and for those nut jobs who think Microsoft should just leave the EC completely, that stands a high chance of killing Microsoft as a company, or at the very least castrating it.
            zkiwi
          • zkiwi pretty much nailed it

            Microsoft has been a bad, bad corporate citizen and it's the EU who makes the rules. They must owe about a billion dollars in fines and penalties by now as this is part of a case that goes back a few years.

            Look up the history. MS has a long and not so clean one.
            awasson@...
          • Wow, there are actually good reasons for it.

            "1st-You have a company that sues in the EU, EU law should only apply to EU."
            This is probably the only think I agree on.

            "2nd-MS did exactly what they asked for, A. They unbundled IE from Windows. B. they made IE more compliant,http://www.opera.com/press/releases/2007/12/13/. Exactly what they asked for."
            Win7E is a retarded solution that Microsoft gave out just to make people believe that Opera and the EU are retarded, and it worked on the retarded. Opera noticed it for what it was and suggested a less retarded solution, the ballot system, which is infinitely better than Win7E
            Oh and standards, http://www.howtocreate.co.uk/wrongWithIE/ and http://www.howtocreate.co.uk/ie8.html

            "3rd-That wasn't good enough, now opera says it should be world wide, not just in the EU."
            Justification is probably that Microsoft is not just an EU company but a worldwide company and just getting rid of the IE "monopoly" in the EU would be quite useless if it exists everywhere else.

            "4th-Opera says MS should do away with their Icon that they have had since IE first came out."
            Only on the ballot screen from what I read and you can find my post about it below.

            "I have a question is it so farfetched that a linux distro could sue MS in order to have a ballot of which OS's MS should include on their installation DVD and which OS's you should install?"
            Two vastly differnt things. You can't compare the two, you know?

            Look at the big picture of these things before labeling anyone as being the "bad guy."
            ElecNinja
          • @ElecNinja

            Interesting points, I don't agree with them and here is the reasons,
            "Win7E is a retarded solution that Microsoft gave out just to make people believe that Opera and the EU are retarded," No MS did not just give it out, Opera asked for it, direct quote from Opera "First, it requests the Commission to obligate Microsoft to unbundle Internet Explorer from Windows" once again i will post the link from Opera's website which I quoted from http://www.opera.com/press/releases/2007/12/13/

            "Opera noticed it for what it was" Then why would Opera suggest it to begin with if it was as you say a retarded solution?? Are saying Opera is retarded??

            "and suggested a less retarded solution, the ballot system," Yes they did suggest it from Opera "and/or carry alternative browsers pre-installed on the desktop." MS chose to go with the first thing Opera suggested since it was a and/or thing. Opera also said that it was bringing the lawsuit under the same principles as the "media player lawsuit," was it a stretch for MS to think they would be ordered to remove IE anyways since they had to remove media player?

            "Oh and standards, http://www.howtocreate.co.uk/wrongWithIE/ and http://www.howtocreate.co.uk/ie8.html"
            My point here was just to point out that IE8 is more standards compliant, I am not saying its perfect yet but its getting there, they are moving towards it.

            "3rd-That wasn't good enough, now opera says it should be world wide, not just in the EU."
            "Justification is probably that Microsoft is not just an EU company but a worldwide company and just getting rid of the IE "monopoly" in the EU would be quite useless if it exists everywhere else." Good point but this goes back to my first point in my previous post "1st-You have a company that sues in the EU, EU law should only apply to EU." The EU is a big market though, getting rid of the IE "monoply" there would sure put a big dent in the "monopoly everywhere".

            "4th-Opera says MS should do away with their Icon that they have had since IE first came out."
            "Only on the ballot screen from what I read and you can find my post about it below." So you think its ok for one company to tell another what their product Logo can be? Really?

            ""I have a question is it so farfetched that a linux distro could sue MS in order to have a ballot of which OS's MS should include on their installation DVD and which OS's you should install?"
            "Two vastly differnt things. You can't compare the two, you know?" Really? lets think about it, Opera already says its sueing under the same priciples as the media player case, (a media player and a browser are two vastly different things to) now whats to stop a linux distro from sueing under this case which will now have the ballot screen? Is it that farfetched? I think its a slippery slope and MS is standing right on top of it. All it would take is a linux distro going to the EU saying how MS has a monopoly and they cant compete, they are sueing under the same principles as the opera case and Viola, Linux distro on a MS installation DVD with a ballot screen asking you which OS you would like to install. I can see it happening, am I the only one?

            BTW I do see the big picture, where did I say someone was the bad guy??
            NoThomas
          • @zkiwi

            "Opera plus a bunch of others raise an issue with the EC. The EC investigates and finds there is a case to answer for. Microsoft procrastinates, delays and then in a whoosh announces 7E," No it wasnt just whoosh, how did they delay exactly?

            "without waiting for the EC ruling." So what they conceded that Opera had a case and came out with a solution that did exactly what Opera asked for.

            "The EC lets them know that they haven't made their ruling yet, and that 7E isn't anywhere near where their thinking was going." Opera said they were sueing under the same guidelines and principles as the media player suit, what happened in that case?

            "Now they like, "Oh wait, we can offer a ballot screen" like you said you might be thinking might be ok. At best a really lame way to "negotiate" especially with 7's release coming up soon." I agree hence I asked the question why is MS doing this to begin with?

            "What's hard to believe is that Microsoft is making such a song and dance out of this when they're behind the 8 ball and may (if they screw this up any more) get even more penalties/rulings/fines levied against them." MS is trying to avoid the rulings and fines thats why it did exactly what Opera wanted "First, it requests the Commission to obligate Microsoft to unbundle Internet Explorer from Windows" http://www.opera.com/press/releases/2007/12/13/

            "Oh, and for those nut jobs who think Microsoft should just leave the EC completely, that stands a high chance of killing Microsoft as a company, or at the very least castrating it." I agree it would cripple them to completely move out of the EU but on the other hand MS needs to take a stand, thats why it should sell only the no IE version and the no media player version, it completely answers the lawsuits and it should protect them from getting sued for the same thing in the future.
            NoThomas
          • @awasson

            "Microsoft has been a bad, bad corporate citizen and it's the EU who makes the rules. They must owe about a billion dollars in fines and penalties by now as this is part of a case that goes back a few years.

            Look up the history. MS has a long and not so clean one." MS is trying to do better, it made IE8 more standards compliant, it unbundled IE from windows which is exactly what Opera wanted. "First, it requests the Commission to obligate Microsoft to unbundle Internet Explorer from Windows " How is that bad of MS to do something that was asked of it?
            NoThomas
          • The icon issue

            The icon issue makes quite perfect sense in that people will just find the Internet Explorer icon and think, "Oh it's what I use every day" and install that without looking at the other options they have.

            Even if they still choose Internet Explorer after reading the description, at least they will be more educated about the whole thing.
            ElecNinja
          • Icons are the core of brand value

            No one will take the icon issue seriously.
            Homogenizing the icons is ridiculous.

            Logos are a central element of branding. Large companies spend fortunes designing and marketing their logos. Logos are a core of that intangible value and recognised in their balance sheets.

            Maybe Intel should remove their INTEL INSIDE logo in case AMD objects.

            Or better still, using the same line of reasoning, Microsoft should change the name of Windows 7 to "POSSIBLY LINUX, POSSIBLY NOT", in case the other OS developers object to people buying a branded product.
            Steve__Jobs
    • Why is MS doing this??

      I find it disgusting that MS is doing this. They should have shipped a browserless OS to the EU and said the hell with you. Backing down will just give the EU more courage to do more stupid things !
      Grouchy1
  • The OS is the Browser

    The only reason Microsoft is getting any significant
    market share for Bing is because Bing automatically
    becomes the DEFAULT search engine in IE. And IE is the
    browser most people use because it is PRE-INSTALLED.

    Microsoft should be banned from including IE on their
    OS and there should be this ballot box including choice
    of DOWNLOADING and INSTALLING any among Chrome,
    Firefox, Opera and IE.

    Using a Browser necessites an Internet connection, so
    no reason that people can't install the browser. And if
    you need a browser somehow before having an Internet
    connection, then a browser can be installed separately
    and stored on an installation disc or USB key.

    People who don't think Microsoft should remove IE as
    default on Windows are morons.
    charbax@...
    • The EC is being silly

      So what do you think will happen when MS is not allowed to install say 5 products by default on Windows. Users will then have to go through a series of dialog boxes before they can begin using Windows. After a while, using an operating system in Europe for the first time will become as tedious as things were 20 years ago. That's progress for you!
      P. Douglas
      • Right! Next up is...

        Media player
        Calculator
        Wordpad
        Mail readers
        Antivirus and anti-malware
        Silverlight (unfair to Flash, wuaaahhhh)
        honeymonster
    • Then

      Mac Should Remove Safari and Firefox should not be allowed to set Google as their default search engine. In fact lets take it further and say that Google or any other company CANNOT include their toolbars or other crap when you go to intall a plug in like Flash or Acrobat Reader. What's good for one is good for all.

      Sure BING is the default search engine if you click express settings but it doesn't hide that fact. The user has a [b]CHOICE[/b] to go through and set up a different search engine and other accelerators and settings if they [b]CHOOSE[/b] to do so. It is [b]NOT[/b] being forced on anyone and to be honest you are the moron. If Apple can include their Browser with their OS and other browsers can CHOOSE what settings they want on the default install then Microsoft has that right too. [b]NOTHING[/b] is stopping a person from downloading and installing the browser of their [b]CHOICE[/b].

      In fact nothing is [b]FORCING[/b] people to use Windows at all. They can purchase a computer without it (Many OEMs now offer other OSes than Windows) or they can build one or go to a shop to have one built without Windows. In fact their is only one OS that [b]FORCES[/b] a user to use something else made by them and that is Apple and yet excuses get made for them on why their practices of monopolizing their OS to their hardware (Which is the same as any other computer by the way). So get off your high horse and if you do not like or want to use IE then don't. Isn't [b]CHOICE[/b] wonderful
      bobiroc