At the end of July, Microsoft officials shared publicly the company's browser-ballot proposal made to the European Commission antitrust regulators. On August 17, execs with Microsoft rival Mozilla weighed in with new and more detailed objections to Microsoft's proposal.
Microsoft's browser-ballot proposal is part of the ongoing settlement talks between the EC and Microsoft over the antitrust suit filed by Opera Software against Microsoft over the bundling of Internet Explorer (IE) with Windows. The EC has yet to issue a final ruling in the case, but has been discussing with Microsoft, PC makers and other software vendors different options designed to level the browser playing field.
One option, originally repudiated but later advocated, by Microsoft is the inclusion of a browser-ballot screen in Windows that will make it clear to users that they have a choice of browsers and don't need to rely on IE just because it comes bundled with Windows. Microsoft is proposing that the ballot-screen be delivered to current and future XP, Vista and Windows 7 users over Windows Update,
Until this week, Microsoft's browser competitors seemed,for the most part, cautiously optimistic about Microsoft's ballot-screen proposal.
But on August 17, Mitchell Baker, Chair of the Mozilla Foundation made it clear she had a number of objections to Microsoft's proposal.
"(E)ven if everything in the currently proposed settlement is implemented in the most positive way — IE will still have a unique and uniquely privileged position on Windows installations," Baker blogged.
Even if the screen were implemented as Microsoft has proposed, IE still gets prominent placement in the Windows user interface, she charged. The Taskbar in Windows 7 gives IE prominent placement, she said, with IE shortcuts remaining part of the user experience unless the user turns off IE. And "choosing another browser as a 'default' does NOT mean that the other browser takes the place of IE," Baker claimed.
Baker also objected to the way Microsoft is proposing that users get their browser bits, both in the way the proposal suggests users download competing bits, as well as the way Microsoft is proposing using Windows Update. She isn't too keen on Microsoft's hard-coding of links to IE into "potentially all Microsoft products other than Office 2007."
Mozilla Corp. Vice President and Chief Counsel Harvey Anderson shared similar objections to the Microsoft proposal, which he itemized in an August 18 blog post. Anderson also highlighted the ordering of the alternative browsers on the ballot, as well as the Microsoft proposal's lack of user education as areas where more information and specifics are needed.
Microsoft officials had nothing to say about Mozilla's new objections.
"The European Commission is reviewing the proposals we submitted July 24, and it's important that public feedback be part of that process," said Microsoft spokesperson Kevin Kutz. "While we may not align on every specific point, we welcome Mozilla's input and find their perspectives constructive. We look forward to the next steps in the Commission's review."
One former Softie, Charles Fitzgerald, a Vice President of Product Management with Decho, had a more pointed response, which he blogged on August 20: "Attention Mozilla: less lobbying, more bug fixing."
What's your take? Do you think Mozilla's execs have any valid objections?