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.
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