Microsoft offers EU a new browser deal

27 Jul 2009

In an attempt to appease European regulators Microsoft has proposed a new remedy that it hopes will end its row over the Internet Explorer web browser.

The company proposes that users who buy its new Windows 7 operating system will be offered a list of potential browsers including Firefox or Safari when they install the software for the first time.

The move comes a month after Microsoft said that European buyers of Windows 7 will have to download a web browser separately.

Last year Microsoft was fined €899m by the European Commission for alleged anti-competitive practices over the bundling of its browser and media player technologies in its operating systems.

The launch of Windows 7 represents the beginning of a new era in Microsoft’s history and the new operating system will offer the company something of a conundrum in Europe where it will be forced to sell the operating system without a web browser.

“Under our new proposal, among other things, European consumers who buy a new Windows PC with Internet Explorer set as their default browser would be shown a ‘ballot screen’ from which they could, if they wished, easily install competing browsers from the web,” Brad Smith, Microsoft general counsel explained.

“If this proposal is ultimately accepted, Microsoft will ship Windows in Europe with the full functionality available in the rest of the world,” Smith said.

Smith said that currently Microsoft is providing PC manufacturers in Europe with E versions of Windows 7, which are fully compliant with European law.

Last week Microsoft revealed that the final version of Windows 7 were approved to be shipped to OEMs to be bundled in PCs from 22 October.

“PCs manufacturers building machines for the European market will continue to be required to ship E versions of Windows 7 until such time that the Commission fully reviews our proposals and determines whether they satisfy our obligations under European law. If the Commission approves this new proposal, Microsoft will begin work at that time to begin implementation of it with PC manufacturers.

“As the European Commission announced, Microsoft’s proposal also includes a public undertaking designed to promote interoperability between third party products and a number of Microsoft products, including Windows, Windows Server, Office, Exchange, and SharePoint.

“Like the Internet Explorer proposal, the interoperability measures we are offering involve significant change by Microsoft. They build on the Interoperability Principles announced by Microsoft in February 2008, which were also based on extensive discussions with the Commission, and they include new steps including enforceable warranty commitments.

“We believe that if ultimately accepted, this proposal will fully address the European competition law issues relating to the inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows and interoperability with our high-volume products. This would mark a big step forward in addressing a decade of legal issues and would be good news for European consumers and our partners in the industry,” Smith said.

By John Kennedy

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