updated 09:15 pm EST, Wed March 4, 2009
Windows 7 beta IE8 switch
Beta testers have allegedly noticed that the recent Windows 7 build offers an option to disable Internet Explorer 8, according to CNET News. The new setting can be found in build 7048, indicating that the company added the feature after releasing the public beta known as build 7000. The browser is included in the list of components found in the "Windows Features" dialog box.
Although Microsoft declined to provide more details regarding the change, recent conflicts with the EU have stirred speculation that the software company may be attempting to provide a solution before the operating system is formally released. The European Commission has said it plans to require that Microsoft offer web browsers other than Internet Explorer in Windows, arguing that the approach would be the only viable way to give users an immediate, equal choice.
The commission noted that the strategy requiring a separate Windows version without the browser would likely be ineffective. Offering Windows XP without Windows Media Player had little impact, as customers would simply purchase the regular version that contained the extra software for no additional fee. The notion of asking users to install a browser themselves is also disregarded because of the necessity for a custom downloader.
Several browser developers have joined in support of the EU's case against Microsoft. Sunday Pichai, Google's vice president of product management, said that the browser market is still largely uncompetitive because Internet Explorer is tied to the dominant operating system, leading to an unfair advantage.
Mozilla's Mitchell Baker voiced a similar opinion, noting that she has "not the single smallest iota of doubt" that bundling the browser to the operating system has a negative impact on choice, competition and product evolution.
Given that the new browser option is currently only included in the Windows 7 beta, it remains unknown if Microsoft will keep the feature in the final release. Despite the European Commission's intentions, the case still remains open and a definite resolution has yet to be announced.