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Europe Windows Users to Get Browser Choice Screen

Microsoft plans to begin sending out a test version of a Web browser-selection screen to Windows users in Europe, the company announced on Friday.

The "Web browser choice screen," as Microsoft calls it, will let users install any browser on Windows. They can select which browser will be the default choice. Users also will be able to turn Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser on or off, as they wish.

Microsoft isn't just being helpful to Windows users in rolling out the choice screen. It's complying with a "Statement of Objections" issued by the European Commission (EC) in January of 2009. Microsoft was charged by the EC with using its Windows monopoly to bundle IE and squeeze out the competition. The EC took up the charge after Opera Software filed a complaint in late 2007.

The choice screen will be available for testing next week in Belgium, France and the United Kingdom. Users of Windows 7, Vista and XP in those nations will be able to download the screen through Windows Update.

Following testing, Microsoft expects to roll out the browser choice screen across Europe sometime the first week of March.


[Click on image for larger view.]
Figure 1. Microsoft's choice screen, showing browser selections in random order.

Microsoft's description of the choice screen differs from the concept it presented to the EC in October. At that time, Microsoft suggested that browsers would be presented in alphabetical order in two groups: the most popular browsers and another group. In the model announced on Friday by Microsoft, the browser selection will be presented in a random order to the user.

IE users will get a slightly different initial choice screen, but they still can download new browsers or change their browser default.

Microsoft faced similar litigation in the United States, but no choice screen resulted and IE tended to stay as the default browser in Windows. A November 2002 U.S. federal court judgment found that Microsoft had established a monopoly with Windows and unfairly used it compete against Netscape, maker of the then-popular Navigator browser.

Netscape Navigator gradually lost its market lead to IE, which today remains as the most widely-used Web browser worldwide.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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