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Windows 7 is launched without IE, but the Commission is not pleased

17 June, 2009

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Deutsch: Windows 7 wird ohne IE eingeführt, die Kommission zeigt sich nicht zu...

Although until recently Microsoft was claiming that Internet Explorer (IE) browser was an integrant part of Windows operating system, on 11 June 2009 the company stated it would launch its new version of operating system for the European market, Windows 7, without Internet Explorer. The decision comes as a result of a Statement of Objections sent to Microsoft in January 2009 by the European Commission regarding competition concerns related to the bundling of the browser to the operating system. However, the European Commission has not welcomed the new decision.

A Statement of Objections is a formal step in Commission antitrust investigations by means of which the parties concerned are informed in writing of the objections raised against them. Microsoft replied to the this step on 28 April 2009 and the Commission is presently considering Microsoft's reply and any additional evidence in the case.

According to the Commission, by bundling Internet Explorer to Windows, Microsoft is using its dominant position in the operating system market to block competition in the browser market. Microsoft was already fined in EU in 2007 for bundling its media player to Windows.

Waiting for the decision of the Commission but wishing to observe its launching targets for the new version of its operation system, Microsoft decided to offer this European version without IE. "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. 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," stated Deputy General Counsel Dave Heiner in a blog post on the company website.

In response to this statement, on 12 June, the European regulators showed they were not pleased with Microsoft's decision as they had suggested that the company offer a selection of browsers on its operating system to open up choice for consumers and not a complete lack of options.

"Microsoft has apparently decided to supply retail consumers with a version of Windows without a web browser at all. Rather than more choice, Microsoft seems to have chosen to provide less," said the Commission in its statement.

The reaction is explainable as after Microsoft had decided to sell a version of Windows without its Media Player after the fine received in 2007, it succeeded in going around the Commission's restrictions by selling an alternative version of Windows equipped for free with the Media Player, which was obviously preferred by the consumers.

A potential solution considered in the Commission' Statement of Objections would be to allow consumers to choose from different web browsers presented to them through a 'ballot screen' in Windows. Thus, the Commission might force Microsoft to include other browsers with its operating system which will probably help competitive browser companies such as Mozilla's Firefox , Opera, Google's Chrome and Apple's Safari.

EU unconvinced by Microsoft Internet browser offer (12.06.2009)

Antitrust: Commission statement on Microsoft Internet Explorer announcement (12.06.2009)

Working to Fulfill our Legal Obligations in Europe for Windows 7 (11.06.2009)

Brussels threatens Microsoft with fresh fine (19.01.2009)



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