Microsoft has promised to give Internet Explorer 10 less of an inbuilt advantage in Windows 8 by the time the new operating system launches on Friday, so it can ward off further hassles with European competition authorities.
On Wednesday, EU competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia stepped up his case against Microsoft for breaking the terms of a previous agreement, in which Microsoft had promised to give Windows users a clear choice of browser when they set up their OS. The software firm had left a crucial 'browser ballot' out of Windows 7 Service Pack 1, an omission it blamed on a "technical error", and could now face a fine of up to £4.5bn.
However, Almunia also noted that the Commission had complained to Microsoft about the way Windows 8 users are steered towards using Internet Explorer.
"If a user decides to set a rival browser as the default browser, there should not be unnecessary warning windows or confirmations by the user, and the Internet Explorer icon should also be unpinned from the Start screen," Almunia said in a press briefing. "We expect Microsoft to address these issues."
Microsoft responded by saying it was working urgently on altering the Windows 8 set-up before its launch.
"After discussions with the Commission, we are changing some aspects of the way the Browser Choice Screen works on Windows 8 and will have those changes implemented when Windows 8 launches later this week," the company said.
These changes are to do with Windows 8, rather than Windows RT, the version of Windows 8 that will run on ARM-based tablets such as Microsoft's own Surface RT. The RT machines will not run any browser other than Internet Explorer — rivals such as Mozilla have complained to the Commission about this situation, but Almunia said there were no "grounds, at this point, for further intervention".
While the browser limitations on Windows RT are far more restrictive than those on Windows 8, Almunia is probably steering clear of the issue because Windows RT is not a market-dominating product in the way the standard x86-based Windows is. Indeed, Windows RT will launch as an underdog in a tablet market dominated by Apple's iPad and, to a lesser extent, Android slates such as Google's Nexus 7.