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Microsoft To Scrap Europe Version of Windows 7

Microsoft changed its plans about issuing a special European version of Windows 7 that would lack Internet Explorer, according to a company announcement.

The about-face was explained by Dave Heiner, Microsoft's vice president and deputy general counsel, in a Friday blog post. He cited two main reasons why Windows 7E (for Europe) wasn't the best approach.

First, computer manufacturers and Microsoft's partners had suggested that Windows 7E would just confuse consumers, Heiner claimed. Second, the European Commission (EC) wants Microsoft to give Windows users a choice of Web browsers, and not necessarily strip out IE from Windows, he contended.

Microsoft has already proposed a mechanism for allowing users to choose their browser. This so-called "ballot screen" proposal, currently being considered by the EC, would let users select from a list of the most popular browsers. Heiner noted that the Commission has "welcomed" Microsoft's proposal, which was announced late last month.

No decision has yet been announced by the EC, but Heiner described a few additional steps Microsoft is willing to take. One idea is that the ballot screen -- which looks like a Web page pushed to the user -- will only be sent to IE users in Europe. Because of that approach, the ballot screen won't cause people to switch to IE, Heiner suggested.

"[The ballot screen] is unlikely to lead to any users switching to IE, since the screen will not be presented to Windows users whose default is Firefox, Safari, Chrome, Opera or any other browser."

In addition, Microsoft plans to send the ballot screen to Windows XP and Windows Vista users in Europe too, according to Heiner. Microsoft essentially will "promote" competing browsers.

"As you might imagine, it was not easy for Microsoft to accept the idea that we would essentially promote directly competing software from within our flagship product, Windows," Heiner wrote.

If the EC rejects the ballot screen idea, Microsoft might revive the Windows 7E idea and ship the operating system without IE, Heiner suggested. 

Microsoft currently faces possible legal action by the EC for distributing its IE product with Windows in Europe. Windows has near monopoly status among operating systems, and European Union competition laws forbid using a monopoly to market other products.

Windows 7 reached the release-to-manufacturing stage last month, and PC makers are currently installing the new operating system on hardware. TechNet and the Microsoft Developer Network subscribers will be able to download Windows 7 on Aug. 6. The general public can buy the OS on Oct. 22.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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Reader Comments:

Wed, Aug 26, 2009 Kirk Iowa, USA

@Steve: I don't see this as an issue of hate; it's an issue of responsible competition in light of human nature in the typically-installed user base. I've been in tech for 25 years, and I can say that the following situation is usually true: If IE is installed on 100% of the Windows machines available and the majority of people using those machines either 1) don't know they should care, or 2) don't know how to / are disinclined to add an alternative / or would, but they're already entrenched in IE because that's what they started using before they knew better ... ... it's stifling responsible competition because an overwhelming majority of these people don't see a need to create more work for themselves. That's it. Guns to people's heads play no part in this situation, which (to me) sounds like a lawyer's argument. It's recognition of human nature, which--in my opinion--is how it should be settled. Further, I can specifically argue that "free choice" isn't the factor--we have OpenOffice, we have Linux, we have a full gamut of free software available--but how many people stick with what they have because that's what someone handed them? At the risk of digressing, it's similar to people having no choice but to watch TV programs that blunt their lives because the viewing audience might be confused if they raise the bar, so why try? @Rainer: Latest word is that MS is planning to ship the standard version. Reading into the "ballot"-based update a little bit (here: http://www.geek.com/articles/news/windows-7-e-scrapped-xp-and-vista-to-get-browser-ballot-screen-too-2009083/), once your country is determined, you will be asked (it appears, via IE 6) which browser you would like to use. In the end Microsoft doesn't have to change a thing; they can do this via Windows Update, and ship the original product. By the way, anyone who pre-ordered the "E" version will find it replaced with the full product.

Fri, Aug 21, 2009 Steve California, USA

If the EC hates Microsoft Windows so much, let one their government employees make another Operating System just for the EC. Nobody is holding a gun to someone's head to make them buy and use Microsoft Products. I get the impression the EC hates Americans that can make a product and profit buy selling around the world.

Thu, Aug 13, 2009 Rainer Prieschl Linz, Austria

I hope that Microsoft will deliver the original version of Win7 to european customers - that means: with integrated IE. EC's decision is absolutely crazy!!!

Tue, Aug 4, 2009

Beyond obscene..

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