Microsoft in trouble with the EU over browser selection. Again.

Back in 2009, Microsoft introduced the “Browser Ballot Screen” to keep the European Commission (EU) happy following anti-trust violations. The EU was happy with at this point and the ballot screen was pushed out via Windows Update to XP and Vista and Windows 7 in 2010. When Windows 7 was released, the ballot choice was notably, but in most cases thankfully absent.

Now the EU is charging Microsoft with not providing that choice for users of the Windows 7 OS from launch. Microsoft acknowledged the “technical error” that caused the choice to be absent from the OS, but not before the EU picked up the issue. In July the EU said that Microsoft had not complied with their order from February 2011.

It was announced at the start of September that Microsoft would be introducing the Browser Ballot Screen in Windows 8, much to the disdain of a number of users. If fined, Microsoft could have to hand over up to 10% of their global turnover.

[Update] It's been pointed out in the comments, and rightly so that neither Apple or Google are under any pressure to add a similar screen into their OS. OS X and iOS have Safari as standard and Android, on phones, tablets and Chromebooks have Chrome. While yes, Microsoft could be creating a monopoly in the browser market, it's hardly their fault that 90% of the OS' installed are Windows. It's also common knowledge that users are more than able to download and install another browser, if they so wish.

Microsoft are almost victims of their own success; Android resides on more than 50% of smartphones, but we can't see them getting a browser ballot screen. The same goes for the iPhone, with more than 30% of the market. So if Microsoft has to introduce this into their Windows OS for desktops and laptops, why not the Windows Phone OS? At the moment, Windows Phone only controls around 5% of the mobile OS market, so is there a certain figure that you need to hit before you're being hauled over hot coals and accused of anti-trust violations? Google and Apple, let this be a warning to you both.

Source: Engadget

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36 Comments

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still1 said,
hope they get fined. good to see this or MS would just use it monopoly.

And I hope Google gets fined equally for its privacy violations.

This browser ballot stuff is just stupid. But what bothers me is that even though I have Chrome set as default, Windows 8 still thinks it's a good idea to open some links in IE10. THAT is annoying.

Putting your personal opinions regarding the EU situation as an "UPDATE" isn't cool. Do what the rest of the reporters do and add a comment.

the whole 90% of the OS installed is windows is why they do this isn't the reason, at one point IE was a dominate browser with over 90% install, it has nothing to do with windows, and everything to do with the IE market dominance...

heck should we put a ballot screen for Remote Desktop Protocol applications too if its based on OS install percentage? because MSTSC is used in 98% of all MS RDP connections... no one can compete right?... or put a ballot screen for power shell since MS has 100% market share on that scripted shell? or put a Shell UI selection screen on first load since 99% of the shell's out there are MS's native shell and 3rd party shell makers can't compete with it?....

ipads are a dominant force within the tablet market, they should be forced in the eu to have the option to install another browser at setup also. this is just complete *********. MS should just say FU to the EU and stop selling there stuff there.

korupt_one said,
ipads are a dominant force within the tablet market, they should be forced in the eu to have the option to install another browser at setup also. this is just complete *********. MS should just say FU to the EU and stop selling there stuff there.

MS will lose a lot of money. Mac and linux will come up.

Is there any proof that these other companies are loosing market share to IE because of not having the ballot screen. I gotta say looking at all my friends computers even the non savy ones, they all use firefox or chrome now on Windows 7. I think the only users that really don't know that there are other browsers or how to intall them are the parents/elderly crowd. I think the only browser that really was complaining was Opera which has never had huge market share anyways, a ballot isn't going to help

I'm not a fan of the EU doing this, but really, why would Microsoft invite the headache? Just put the damn ballot screen in and move on.

COKid said,
I'm not a fan of the EU doing this, but really, why would Microsoft invite the headache? Just put the damn ballot screen in and move on.
It was left out by a mistake.. no one noticed.. probably cause no one cared..

Ryoken said,
It was left out by a mistake.. no one noticed.. probably cause no one cared..

You must be extremely naive to believe it was mistake. Unless the fanboism blinds you on purpose. MS is bleeding and currently they have to offer IE10 on Metro and Desktop. There's a reason MS counts mostly "IE usage in US only". Europe does not use as much IE and in the future only worse it will become for them and their Internet Explorer.

PC EliTiST said,

You must be extremely naive to believe it was mistake. Unless the fanboism blinds you on purpose. MS is bleeding and currently they have to offer IE10 on Metro and Desktop. There's a reason MS counts mostly "IE usage in US only". Europe does not use as much IE and in the future only worse it will become for them and their Internet Explorer.

They usually polarize it more than that, if you look at percentage of US Windows 7 users of course its gonna look higher than total desktop worldwide figures.

EU: 1. find traffic, 2. play in it.

This is ridiculous. It's not like they're coding the OS to not work with other web browsers or something.

KSib said,
EU: 1. find traffic, 2. play in it.

This is ridiculous. It's not like they're coding the OS to not work with other web browsers or something.

No but the other browsers have no way to advertise. Its not like Google has chrome ads on youtube or any other google site. Its not like there isn't a Install firefox button somewhere on most sites. These browsers are **** and the companies know this so they force the big guns to advertise for them.

Colin McGregor said,

No but the other browsers have no way to advertise. Its not like Google has chrome ads on youtube or any other google site. Its not like there isn't a Install firefox button somewhere on most sites. These browsers are **** and the companies know this so they force the big guns to advertise for them.

/s

smooth_criminal1990 said,
First there was the phrase 'Only in America', now we have 'Only in Europe'!

And many many years from now that will "Only be on Earth"

Coming from Europe myself, I think it's a kick in the teeth to Microsoft having to advertise rival browsers within its own operating system.

The rival browsers make money in their own ways (especially Google) let's see companies like Google cry when they are forced to add a start page in Chrome that says "Thanks for installing Chrome, do you know about these other browsers as well?"

Does OS X have a browser ballot?

Neobond said,
Coming from Europe myself, I think it's a kick in the teeth to Microsoft having to advertise rival browsers within its own operating system.

The rival browsers make money in their own ways (especially Google) let's see companies like Google cry when they are forced to add a start page in Chrome that says
"Thanks for installing Chrome, do you know about these other browsers as well?"

Does OS X have a browser ballot?


that's exactly what I was wandering..does os x have a browser ballot?

pirajoc said,

that's exactly what I was wandering..does os x have a browser ballot?

I've never seen it, and I set up a few macs at my old college.

Neobond said,
Coming from Europe myself, I think it's a kick in the teeth to Microsoft having to advertise rival browsers within its own operating system.

The rival browsers make money in their own ways (especially Google) let's see companies like Google cry when they are forced to add a start page in Chrome that says "Thanks for installing Chrome, do you know about these other browsers as well?"

Does OS X have a browser ballot?


It was due to MS's domination of the browser market with over 90% of the internetters using IE6. Then this would've been a decent measurement.
But in 2010 IE was down to 65% or something, hardly dominating anymore (still huge and all, but not as dominating anymore).
And currently IE is struggling to remain the largest browser to begin with.
This is total bogus and even though I support allot of EU stuff like this where they attempt to protect the consumer (they are doing this for us, the consumers).
But they're using outdated information!
And IE is just a browser that comes default with the OS and is mildly promoted.
But look at Chrome..... It keeps giving me the creeps as it's acting so close to spyware... don't pay attention once and you have Chrome, Googleupdater and what not installed phoning home as much information as they can possibly get away with.
But thats all okay!
But delivering a browser with your own OS... NO! DONT!

And its retarded that the EU sees smartphones as a totally different entity from computers/laptops.
Add these into the marketshare's and MS Windows isnt nearly as dominating as it appears now. Especially considering many computer tasks are done nowadays on a smartphone.

Lord Method Man said,
I want to know why there isn't a text editor ballot! M$ is forcing Notepad.exe on everyone and being anticompetitive!
/s

Damned right. I want Vim to be offered when first running Notepad.

Neobond said,
Coming from Europe myself, I think it's a kick in the teeth to Microsoft having to advertise rival browsers within its own operating system.

The rival browsers make money in their own ways (especially Google) let's see companies like Google cry when they are forced to add a start page in Chrome that says "Thanks for installing Chrome, do you know about these other browsers as well?"

Does OS X have a browser ballot?

No, OSX does not. Nor do most Linux setups..

And no ballot for Notepad, Calculator, the kernel, or anything else.. MS should have just said no, flat out, and stopped their sales in the EU, and closed all their offices there..

Anyone think business wouldn't just order their copies of Windows from somewhere else, rather than change their whole networks over to Linux ? Anyone think the masses wouldn't be going postal to their elected officials over them not being able to get a Windows computer ?

They probably could have suffered for a few months and then been done with all this nonsense in the EU for good.. now they are gonna be dealing with it forever.


Also, I don't blame most of the browser co's.. I don't think Google, or Mozilla asked for this at all.. this was almost all Opera.. which got their karma, cause offered more choices, it was Opera that lost the most market share in the EU since this nonsense started..

Neobond said,
Coming from Europe myself, I think it's a kick in the teeth to Microsoft having to advertise rival browsers within its own operating system.

The rival browsers make money in their own ways (especially Google) let's see companies like Google cry when they are forced to add a start page in Chrome that says "Thanks for installing Chrome, do you know about these other browsers as well?"

Does OS X have a browser ballot?

I never really understood where this sense of entitlement came from in this market. I mean, who said Microsoft had to let ANYONE develop third party software for their OS? I know that's an extreme example, but still, it's their OS, I don't understand how someone can tell them what they can and can't include in that OS. At what point do we stop breaking this down? As mentioned before, is notepad monopolizing the market and not giving others a chance? Is Microsoft's wallpaper pack not allowing other photographers to get their chance? All of this crap is ridiculous. If you want another browser, use one. And let's not forget to mention that IE was slipping in market share rapidly, long before this legislation went into place. So apparently people are not just content to stay with what is bundled anyway.

This along with the whole patent system proves that we are unable to translate our typical laws to technology appropriately. We continue to try to force these centuries old laws to apply in a digital world, and it isn't working. Problem is, the people that handle these laws are largely computer illiterate, and therefore nothing changes.

pirajoc said,

that's exactly what I was wandering..does os x have a browser ballot?

Nope. Based on market share OS X is exempt from this B.S.

Cyborg_X said,

Nope. Based on market share OS X is exempt from this B.S.

Also Apple would tell them to **** off, and just stop selling directly in those countries.. make you order from the US site, and then pay your import taxes and such..

Remember when France ordered them to open up with DRM so other parties could use it, back when iTunes used DRM for music.. Apple just closed up and left France..

Lord Method Man said,
I want to know why there isn't a text editor ballot! M$ is forcing Notepad.exe on everyone and being anticompetitive!
/s
Better yet, I think before Windows install, they should ask "Are you sure you would like to install Windows? You can also buy Linux or OSX instead."

Lord Method Man said,
I want to know why there isn't a text editor ballot! M$ is forcing Notepad.exe on everyone and being anticompetitive!
/s

You're so funny, but at least you don't use notepad to download a different brand...

They all moan, but when Microsoft said OK we'll just remove IE from the N version they got all upperty complaining they wouldn't have a way to download their rival browser.

Irony at its best.

Neobond said,
Coming from Europe myself, I think it's a kick in the teeth to Microsoft having to advertise rival browsers within its own operating system.

The rival browsers make money in their own ways (especially Google) let's see companies like Google cry when they are forced to add a start page in Chrome that says "Thanks for installing Chrome, do you know about these other browsers as well?"

Does OS X have a browser ballot?


I think the best explanation I've ever heard when it comes to this whole circus was:

US anti-trust laws are designed to protect consumers. EU anti-trust laws are designed to protect businesses.

Either region will argue that their approach ultimately helps both consumers AND businesses (think of it kind of like trickle-up vs. trickle-down), but fundamentally the language of the laws approach anti-trust with one of the two priorities. This is why, in the US, there are exceptions to the law when a compelling case can be made that the anti-competitive behavior offered a clear, immediate, and overwhelming benefit to consumers.

For the EU, such things simply are not taken into consideration, because at a fundamental level it's believed that the BEST and ONLY way to benefit consumers is by artificially maintaining an arbitrarily defined level of competition for market share.

Also, something something about the EU having dollar signs for eyes. Funny how one region feels entitled to a payout based on a GLOBAL number.

Neobond said,
Coming from Europe myself, I think it's a kick in the teeth to Microsoft having to advertise rival browsers within its own operating system.

The rival browsers make money in their own ways (especially Google) let's see companies like Google cry when they are forced to add a start page in Chrome that says "Thanks for installing Chrome, do you know about these other browsers as well?"

Does OS X have a browser ballot?

I know... Apple's native ios doesn't allows u to run any other source other than webkit (safari) while android has Firefox, Chrome, Dolphin etc