updated 07:50 am EST, Wed December 16, 2009
EU approves Windows 7 browser ballot
The European Commission on Wednesday greenlit Microsoft's updated proposal for a browser ballot within Windows 7. Now referred to as a "choice screen," the ballot will give EU users what the Commission says is as neutral a choice as possible for their browser. Those first booting a Windows PC will get a neutral window to pick their browser and will see the browsers presented in a random order that gives equal weight to Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera and Safari.
The changes come after Mozilla and Opera had complained about previous proposals. Initially, the choice was presented in an Internet Explorer window that could have led users to prefer keeping what was already installed. Microsoft's ordering had also put Internet Explorer first but was criticized again after it tried alphabetical order and would have always favored Apple's Safari while pushing back the Mozilla and Opera browsers.
Microsoft will implement the choice screen in new installs of Windows 7 by mid-March 2010 and will have to provide a report on its implementation six months later. Afterwards, the company will still have to report its implementation on a yearly basis for the next five years to ensure compliance with future Windows updates.
Along with the browser changes, Microsoft has pledged to improve interoperability with all versions of Windows, Office, Exchange and SharePoint and has made an interoperability package available today. The move is a further response to requests and concerns that had prompted a record $1.4 billion fine last year after the company had allegedly failed to share enough code and other documentation for competitors to fairly develop on its platforms.
In exchange, the Commission says it no longer threatens to levy any additional fines for the supposed browser abuses or for any perceived defiance of older software rulings. Officials had originally brought an investigation into Windows browser practices as they had been concerned that Internet Explorer's pre-installation on every Windows PC, even if it wasn't the default, gave it an unfair advantage in a climate where most computers are running Microsoft's OS.