It appears the European Commission and Microsoft are close to an agreement in the web browser-bundling antitrust case. I reported last week in the 4sysops news section that there probably will be no Windows 7 E without Internet Explorer in Europe. Instead, Microsoft will offer a Ballot Screen that allows users to choose a web browser. The Ballot Screen will also be displayed on already installed Windows XP and Windows Vista computers. This article summarizes the most important facts about the Ballot Screen.
Obviously, Windows 7 without a browser would have meant too much hassle for PC manufacturers, software vendors, and customers. It is also possible that the European Commission wouldn’t have accepted Microsoft’s proposal to deliver Windows 7 in Europe without any web browser. I have already outlined my view about this bizarre antitrust case before. I think Microsoft made the right decision, not because we need more competition in the browser market, but because a special European Windows 7 edition would have caused too much trouble. I am now waiting until Symantec & Co. will want a Ballot Screen for desktop firewalls, antimalware software, backup software, etc.
The following summary is based primarily on Microsoft’s Proposed Commitment (Word file).
Windows 7 Ballot Screen
- Windows 7 will be delivered with the Ballot Screen or within two weeks of the adoption of the Commission’s decision.
- Microsoft won’t remove Internet Explorer from Windows 7; only the browser frame window and menus (user interface) will be disabled.
- IE’s rendering engine will still be usable for third party applications. (This is what I infer from the above the note.)
- OEM’s will be free to install the web browser of their choice.
Ballot Screen deployment
- The Ballot Screen will be deployed via Windows Update to all current and future users of Windows XP and Windows Vista; this will happen between 3 and 6 months after the adoption of the Commission’s decision. The update will have the priority level of “Important.”
- The Ballot Screen software will be updated at the same rate as IE.
- IE won’t be deployed via Windows Update (there was some speculation about this), but the rendering engine will be updated even if IE is disabled.
- Microsoft may offer tools for volume license customers that prevent the Ballot Screen update from being installed on all computers covered by the license.
Ballot Screen usage
- When the user logs on the first time after the update, the Ballot Screen will be displayed. Users can postpone the decision; the Ballot Screen will be presented again in two weeks.
- The Ballot Screen will be displayed only to those users who have IE configured as their default browser or who have not configured a default browser.
- The Ballot Screen will include web browsers with a usage share equal to or more than 0.5% in the European Economic Area (EEA) as measured semiannually by a source commonly agreed on between Microsoft and the European Commission (but not more than 10 browsers).
- The five web browsers with the highest usage share in the EEA will be displayed prominently.
- Users can choose IE as their default browser on the Ballot Screen.
- The Ballot Screen will contain an install link (download) and an information link.
- Microsoft will disclose the Windows APIs IE relies on.
- Microsoft will not try to circumvent this Commitment and will not pressure OEMs to preinstall IE.
- The term of this Commitment shall be 5 years from the date of the adoption of the Commission’s decision.