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

By EDRi · June 17, 2009

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Deutsch: [Windows 7 wird ohne IE eingef├╝hrt, die Kommission zeigt sich nicht zufrieden |]

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

Working to Fulfill our Legal Obligations in Europe for Windows 7

Brussels threatens Microsoft with fresh fine (19.01.2009)