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.
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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).
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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.
Additional Notes ^
- 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.