Microsoft to release Windows 7 in Europe without Internet Explorer

Saying that the company must abide by the law of the European Union, Microsoft Deputy General Counsel Dave Heiner revealed Thursday afternoon that it has made the decision to make a European "E" version of Windows 7 available to customers there, without Internet Explorer 8 bundled.

"We're committed to making Windows 7 available in Europe at the same time that it launches in the rest of the world, but we also must comply with European competition law as we launch the product," Heiner wrote. "Given the pending legal proceeding, we've decided that instead of including Internet Explorer in Windows 7 in Europe, we will offer it separately and on an easy-to-install basis to both computer manufacturers and users. This means that computer manufacturers and users will be free to install Internet Explorer on Windows 7, or not, as they prefer. Of course, they will also be free, as they are today, to install other Web browsers."

OEMs and manufacturers were given the notice of Microsoft's decision earlier this week, Heiner said. What we do not know at this point is how the "experience" will be altered for consumers installing the product themselves; specifically, will users be given a choice, or will they be merely left without a Web browser. The reason we don't know the answer, Heiner said, is because Microsoft hasn't made a decision; and in light of not installing IE8 automatically, Heiner has tossed the ball into the EC's court, forcing it to reveal its opinion as to what users should be enabled to do.

"Other alternatives have been raised in the Commission proceedings, including possible inclusion in Windows 7 of alternative browsers or a 'ballot screen' that would prompt users to choose from a specific set of Web browsers. Important details of these approaches would need to be worked out in coordination with the Commission, since they would have a significant impact on computer manufacturers and Web browser vendors, whose interests may differ," Heiner writes. "Given the complexity and competing interests, we don't believe it would be best for us to adopt such an approach unilaterally."

Also undetermined at this point is how this will impact Windows Server's ability to automatically install features for multiple clients in a network. As it stands now, the typical automated installation image already includes IE7 or IE8; under this new state of affairs, administrators may have to choose IE as an option. Whether this is an option among other Web browsers, or just simply provided as "IE on" or "IE off," may be something else the European Commission must decide. Windows 7 may be just a handful of weeks away from RTM, and any delay on the EC's part could delay the product for European customers past the October 22 final release date, while it's widely available in the States.

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