Microsoft tries to head off EU scrutiny over Windows 8 browser choice

Microsoft tries to head off EU scrutiny over Windows 8 browser choice

Summary: Having landed in seriously hot water over its browser choice mechanism - or lack thereof - in Windows 7, Microsoft has now promised to give IE10 less of an inbuilt advantage in Windows 8. It claims it will make the necessary changes in time for the Windows 8 launch on Friday.


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.

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"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.

Topics: Windows, Browser, Legal, Microsoft, EU

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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  • Same old tricks

    Were I deciding the fine for the Windows 7 infraction ... I would take MSFT's attempt to get up to the usual tricks in the (currently minority) tablet market ... as a contimunace of insidious corporate intent ... and fine them the maximum allowed under european legislation.

    Then I would note Apple's 70%+ sahre of the European tablet market and start investigations for Safari.
  • If they get slapped...

    Than so too, should Apple. Where's my browser choices there?
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • Odd that MS has to worry about Windows 8

    Yesterday we heard that Windows has 30% of the pc+device market. This means that AT BEST IE has 30% marketshare.

    MS should be free to do whatever they want with Windows 8 and IE 10.
    • Except that this ruling is only concerned with PCs.

      The device market is irrelevant here. You knew that, of course. Especially since this article explicitly stated "Windows 8" and you have previously claimed that Windows RT isn't Windows 8 at all.
  • What about Apple and Google?

    This really is ridiculous. It was untenable at the time, and in today's climate is simply unbelievable.

    Notice that Apple isn't required to prompt users with a browser choice on iPhone/iPad or Mac, nor is Google required to prompt users with a browser choice on Android or Chromebook, etc. And yet, it was Google and allies including Apple who l0bbied the E.U. to take this crazy action!

    The E.U. is arguably the most bl0ated and c0rrupt inst1tution in the history of civilisati0n -- as well as being undem0cratic.
    Tim Acheson
  • Ah, the shrill bleating of shills

    Maybe you lot could turn your pathetic "Don't punish Microsoft for breaking their agreements" into a Gregorian chant.
    • You are right ego

      Wait, this article has nothing to do with the fines MS is facing for Windows 7 SP1.

      The question on everyone's mind is: Why would MS have to worry about IE10 in Windows 8 considering they have 30% marketshare?

      While I don't think the ruling should have been made regarding Windows 7 and IE, I do agree with the position that MS agreed to it and so have to abide by it. So yes, MS should be punished for breaking an agreement, even if the agreement was completely ridiculous. This is about the present, not the past. This is about a present where Windows has nearly been overtaken by Linux (Remember, Android is soon to be the most popular OS in the world) and where IE has AT BEST 30% marketshare (because Windows only has 30% marketshare and IE doesn't have 100% marketshare on Windows desktops).

      MS needs to pay for Windows 7 SP1 but should be free to do whatever they want with Windows 8. After all, with only 30% marketshare, they no longer fit any definition of the word "monopoly".
      • That wasn't Gregorian or a chant

        Merely another rubbish but of whining on your part.
  • Microsoft tries to head off EU scrutiny over Windows 8 browser choice

    EU should be making the browser choice an add-on and not Microsoft. That way they know it will be fair and can't complain. The drawback is they would have no one to fine for more money.
    Loverock Davidson-