Microsoft reaches agreement with EU over browser choice

The European Commission said today that it had accepted Microsoft's commitments to give users browser choice.

Under the terms of the agreement, Microsoft will need to supply a ballot screen for users to choose their preferred browser. OEMs will also be able to ship new PCs in Europe without Internet Explorer pre-installed. If Microsoft fails to commit to the agreement within the next five years then EC regulators will impose a fine of up to 10% of Microsoft's total annual turnover without having to prove any violation of EU antitrust rules.

In a statement issued today, Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: "Millions of European consumers will benefit from this decision by having a free choice about which web browser they use. Such choice will not only serve to improve people's experience of the internet now but also act as an incentive for web browser companies to innovate and offer people better browsers in the future."

The BBC notes, the browser dispute has lasted 10 years and resulted in the EU imposed fines totalling 1.68bn euros ($2.44bn, £1.5bn). Microsoft recently proposed a randomized ballot for users to select their browser of choice after Windows is installed. The EU is happy with this change, stating "the approved commitments address these concerns. PC users, by means of the Choice Screen, will have an effective and unbiased choice between Internet Explorer and competing web browsers. This should ensure competition on the merits and allow consumers to benefit from technical developments and innovation both on the web browser market and on related markets, such as web-based applications."

The agreement ends years of legal tangles between the pair over browser choice in Windows. In 2004 the EU forced Microsoft to remove Windows Media Player from its Windows operating system. Microsoft was originally planning to release a browser-less version of Windows 7 (E Edition) but scrapped its plans at the last minute after the EU approved of the browser ballot screen.

Brad Smith, Senior Vice President and General Counsel for Microsoft said "We are pleased with today's decision by the European Commission, which approves a final resolution of several longstanding competition law issues in Europe. We look forward to building on the dialogue and trust that has been established between Microsoft and the Commission and to extending our industry leadership on interoperability."

Opera, a vocal opponent of Microsoft bundling Internet Explorer into Windows, also issued a statement regarding the announcement this morning. "This is a victory for the future of the Web. This decision is also a celebration of open Web standards, as these shared guidelines are the necessary ingredients for innovation on the Web," said Jon von Tetzchner, CEO, Opera Software.

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Choto Cheeta said,
may be something which can only be accessible from an European IP (??)..

Nope. Assuming the URL is real, then the site hasn't gone live yet.

The fact that the ballot has to be displayed within Internet Explorer (or it's rendering engine at the least) is proof in itself that IE is a necessary part of the OS. Without it, there would be no choice. Unfortunately, nobody seems to get this.

Not so. It would be very very easy for Microsoft to develop a very simple application that offered a browser choice screen without needing to display it in a browser.

Doing it in HTML/ASPX/etc is just easier.

everyone has a choice of using their own browser. DOWNLOAD IT once u get your computer up and running. if you are not happy with IE8 go download whatever you want later on. some rules are just stupid

To be honest, I still believe this is stupid. It's MICROSOFT'S product, they can do what the want imo, if I didn't like/agree, I wouldn't use Windows.

Plus if I didn't like IE, Im perfectly capable of trying others, I don't see why other people arn't like this.

I want to find the EU commision and say "You can buy that car if you wish, but your not allowed any wheels, you have to get them additionally"

*shakes fist*

Get a clue mate.

It's MICROSOFT'S product, they can do what the want imo

Then your opinion is wrong The very fact that the EU can demand these actions proves your opinion is in error.

Plus if I didn't like IE, Im perfectly capable of trying others, I don't see why other people arn't like this.

Thats not the point. The point is that a large percentage of computer users are completely novices and most of them have no clue that other browsers exist.. they just know that the big blue "e" gets them onto the internet. They dont actually care that it's called Windows Internet Explorer. And that's the problem. Microsoft are using their dominant position in the OS marketplace to give them the IE browser knowing full well that the majority of users will not switch to another browser, or even give it a second thought.

billyea said,
The fact that the ballot has to be displayed within Internet Explorer (or it's rendering engine at the least) is proof in itself that IE is a necessary part of the OS. Without it, there would be no choice. Unfortunately, nobody seems to get this.
What nobody gets is that internet explorer is already pre-installed [which actually breaks the agreement with EU]: just look at the window title... "Information Regarding Web Browsers - Windows Internet Explorer".
Internet Explorer engine *never* was and *never* will be needed to access the internet/networks, but still *is* integrated as part of the OS, even if MS said it is not, and even if they said they would dis-integrate it. Which mean they lied, because they didn't remove it.
If MS cares to be fair [which obviously they don't give a flying guano about], they would use a neutral app to display the browser choices, *not* internet explorer.
And if they really want a fair and simple solution, here it is...
To be fair to all users, the ballot must be displayed in plain old Notepad.
And Notepad can be easily upgraded to display URLs as active [clickable] links [Win32pad (freeware Notepad replacement) for example, does this for a very long time now].
There is no need for a pre-existing web browser in order to get *another* web browser. Get it? ;)
I've said this b4.

sad thing is.... you kinda need a browser to goto a website to download a browser... so if MS bundeled other browsers along with theres they might get sued... the stupid **** ppl sue over...

i don't think it'd ever happen that MS bundles 3rd party software with windows. i just don't see it happening, but as u said, there's always gonna be "anti-trust" issues for microsoft, sadly.

-DanNY- said,
Microsoft IE 8 "The world most popular internet browser". Maybe Microsoft hasn't noticed that FF has higher numbers...

It doesn't, compared to IE as a whole.

damn buncha socialist, next thing they'll bitch about is a ballot screen to choose what OS when you buy a new computer.

LAMj said,
damn buncha socialist, next thing they'll bitch about is a ballot screen to choose what OS when you buy a new computer.

Isn't it fun when people misuse words like "socialist".

Kirkburn said,
Isn't it fun when people misuse words like "socialist".


More fun when people only read the first three words of any sentence

resol612 said,
More fun when people only read the first three words of any sentence

Perhaps it would help if those first three words weren't included, since they contribute nothing to the argument except to randomly insult?

In any case, there's a clear cut difference between software packaged with an OS and the OS itself.

I don't agree with this, i'm all for freedom to use what you want, but at the end of the day this is just occuring to Microsoft because they are the market leaders.

If they didn't have the majority market share, MS could bundle all the stuff in the OS they want, just like Apple.

If your going to go and inflict your power on a single company, you could at least make other companies do the same thing.

dave164 said,
I don't agree with this, i'm all for freedom to use what you want, but at the end of the day this is just occuring to Microsoft because they are the market leaders.

If they didn't have the majority market share, MS could bundle all the stuff in the OS they want, just like Apple.

If your going to go and inflict your power on a single company, you could at least make other companies do the same thing.


That MS is the extremely dominant market leader is exactly why this is occuring. It's not an argument against it, it's an argument for it.

Kirkburn said,
That MS is the extremely dominant market leader is exactly why this is occuring. It's not an argument against it, it's an argument for it.


It will never be a level playing field as long as any OS can bundle any browser with it. Call it "insignificant" as you myopics will, but it WILL still distort the freedom of choice.

resol612 said,
It will never be a level playing field as long as any OS can bundle any browser with it. Call it "insignificant" as you myopics will, but it WILL still distort the freedom of choice.

Unless you're suggesting it's better for the EU to law down laws that you can't bundle a browser with an OS ... it's better for them to be reactive to "bad" situations.

All you guys got it wrong. The EU doesn't care about you or any company. The EU was built to make money and that's it. With this economy, the EU seems to be doing a great job.

jesseinsf said,
All you guys got it wrong. The EU doesn't care about you or any company. The EU was built to make money and that's it. With this economy, the EU seems to be doing a great job.

Make money for whom, exactly? It's not a business - the money it receives goes back out to citizens ... like a government, in fact.

Taking this principle to the nth degree, I await the day where companies who produce Calculator and Windows Explorer alternatives come to the fore and cry foul on these same grounds.

so HP, Dell, Asus etc... will be sued for bundling windows as part of the pc?
there's a OS of choice when you open up your computer?
what does EU want now?

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