Ballot-Screen 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).

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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.
  1. Rory Schmitz 13 years ago

    Hi Michael,

    What is MS doing to assist businesses who will do NOT want to participate in the additional browser ballot? Will there be a block tool similar to IE7/IE8 installs for this particular update so end users won’t receive the ballot? Or is this just a simple update that we can block through WSUS? If you have any information regarding that I’m sure your readers, mainly the European readers, would be interested.

    I just picture this causing confusing to the end-user within a corporate setting, unless sys admins have some sort of control over it.

    Also, how exactly does Microsoft deploy this update throughout Europe, but not the rest of the world.


    Rory Schmitz

  2. Michael Pietroforte 13 years ago

    Hi Rory! Yes, Microsoft will assist business to prevent the Ballot Screen from being displayed on corporate PCs. However, there is no concrete information available yet. Since the software will be delivered as an update for Vista and XP, WSUS users will be able to block the software from being installed. I suppose Microsoft will only make more information available once the EC officially accepted the proposal.

  3. Lukas Beeler 13 years ago

    Well, sounds much better now. Now that we know which version we can use, all we need to do is wait for Thursday/Friday.

  4. Michael Pietroforte 13 years ago

    Lukas, I somehow doubt that we will see a Windows 7 with the Ballot Screen this week. Microsoft has to wait now for EC’s response.

  5. moiecoute 13 years ago

    I can understand the fuss but at the same time this is the world of convergence and the internet.

    Whether it be Microsoft/IE, Google OS/Chrome or MAC/Safari it doesn’t make sense to me not include a browser in the OS. MS is not stopping anyone from install Firefox or paying for Opera.

    MS will lose a lot of money from this but hey at the same time at least those stats about the most popular browser and websites will be more accurate. Not high because people use IE as part of Windows and because particular sites are set as the IE home page.

  6. Michael Pietroforte 13 years ago

    Why should MS lose a lot of money? Web browsers are free anyway. Thus this “competition” is mostly for fun and has no real economic relevance. It will become only relevant for MS if other software vendors want a ballot screen too.

  7. Mark Rhoades-Brown 13 years ago

    Do not be naive. Load up IE, Firefox, Safari, Chrome , etc. and look at the homepages. These pages are revenue streams. When you see a search bar on these, or an advert on the web page, somebody is making money out of it. Look at this deal between Google and FireFox-

    If somebody is making money, then it is at somebody else’s expense. Microsoft will loose money from this, and Opera (in particular) will make more profit. Face it, how many casual users had ever heard of Opera? Firefox probably, Safari if you are a mac user, Chrome- you see it on the Google which most people use.
    My personal preference for browsers at the moment is IE8, before IE8 came around it used to be Firefox (which I still use very often). I have used Opea, in fact I use that and Skyfire on my mobile phone. Choice is a good thing, but I think that this ballot system is extremely unfair.
    I agree with the article that soon Symantec, McAffe, AVG, etc. will want to get in on the act. Soon it will take ½ hour to install Windows, and an hour or two to go through the choices of browser, firewall, AV, paint application, etc. Where will it end?

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