While the European Commission is wasting time getting Microsoft to pull IE from Windows, Russia's Commission of the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) is putting together a case against some of the largest OEMs for violating antimonopoly legislation.
FAS is looking at Acer, ASUSTeK, Toshiba, HP, Samsung and Dell, claiming that the companies violated competition laws by pre-installing Windows on notebooks, and not giving users an option to choose a different OS (Linux) or no OS at all.
Side note: This case looks at notebooks specifically. I guess the reason for this is that you can build your own desktop system, but not a notebook.
Reading the press release, I think that this is more a case of giving users a choice rather than punishing Microsoft. And when you think about it, there's merit to the investigation. While the vast majority of users are perfectly happy with whatever OS comes with their system, there are some people who either don't want an OS installed (they're going to install Linux or perhaps have an OS license at hand) or would prefer to have another OS pre-installed. Makes sense to me. That said though, OEMs will probably be resistant to pre-installing Linux because that means they end up supporting multiple OSes.
It seems that Microsoft is in the clear over this:
"The «Microsoft» Corporation, brought to the proceedings as an interested party, confirmed that the licence agreements with PC vendors do not set any restrictions or requirements to sell PC with pre-installed operational systems, or any obstacles for returning the pre-installed operational system. To prevent future imposing of the operational system, «Microsoft» presented information on changes to the draft contracts with notebook manufacturers, which would obligate the latter to have procedures for returning operational systems from end users."
This is about choice, but I can't see choice being free though. Even if OEMs could push say 5% of PCs running Linux out of the door, it's likely that the cost of the OS (free) would be offset by the cost of the custom setup and that Windows-based systems would cost about the same as Linux-based systems. However, the exposure that Linux could get from being featured alongside Windows could mean the OS gains ground. As far as offering OS-free systems goes, the cost here would be minimal (fitting a blank hard drive rather than one with Windows installed on it) and these systems are likely to be significantly cheaper.
In my opinion, giving users a choice of OS (or no OS) is far more important than which browser is installed as default.