Microsoft to include IE opt-out feature in Windows 7

8 Mar 2009

Microsoft appears to have offered the European Union (EU) a compromise in the form of an opt-out feature in the forthcoming Windows 7 operating system (OS) that allows users to disable Internet Explorer (IE).

In recent months, the EU launched a number of new probes into allegations Microsoft is abusing its dominant position in the marketplace, with one of the investigations examining whether the company has tied its web browser, IE, too closely to its Windows OS.

This follows on from a complaint made by Opera Software ASA, a Norwegian firm that makes Opera, the popular alternative web browser to IE, including Opera for the PC, Opera Mobile and Opera Mini.

Google and Mozilla, which also have their own browsers, have also added their voices to the growing dissent.

Previously, Microsoft was hit with a fine from the EU for €497m in 2004, followed by further fine of €280m, all related to anti-trust findings around the bundling of IE and Windows Media Player with its operating systems.

In a recent blog post on the engineering work that has been going into Windows 7, Jack Mayo, the group programme manager for Microsoft’s Documents and Printing team, and who has also worked on IE 8, said that Windows 7 will include features that allow users to disable a number of well-known products such as IE and Windows Media Player.

Mayo said that in addition to features that could already be turned off in Windows Vista, the company has added: Windows Media Player, Windows Media Center, Windows DVD Maker, IE 8, Windows Search, Handwriting Recognition (through the Tablet PC Components option), Windows Gadget Platform, Fax and Scan and XPS Viewer and Services (including the Virtual Print Driver).

“For Windows 7, we’ve engineered a more significant list of features and worked to balance that list in light of the needs of the broad Windows platform as well,” Mayo said.

“We want to provide choice, while also making sure we do not compromise on compatibility by removing APIs provided for developers. We also want to strike the right balance for consumers in providing choice and balancing compatibility with applications and providing a consistent Windows experience,” Mayo said.

Windows 7 is the follow-up OS to Windows Vista, and may be released as early as January next year.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years