Microsoft to tour Europe sans browsers

Redmond's up to its old anti-anti-trust tricks, shipping Windows 7 in Europe minus Internet Explorer. If nothing else, you've got to admire Microsoft's chutzpah

Ah, those wacky Europeans. They think nothing of stripping down and jumping into the Mediterranean in the altogether or, at most, those skimpy man sacks they call swimsuits.

Now Microsoft has announced it's going European. Next fall, copies of Windows will be bumming around the continent without their browsers. If the company has its way, users across the pond will be treated to Windows 7 E -- with the E standing for Excluding Explorer, or possibly just "Eff you, you cheese-loving snobs."

As Microsoft veep Dave Heiner puts in his lawyerly way:

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.

Remember the mid-90s when Microsoft "crushed" Netscape by bundling IE with Win 95? Back then Microsoft told the DOJ's antitrust folks it wasn't possible to separate the browser from the OS. Apparently they managed to fix that problem. Are these guys innovators or what?

The problem? Nobody asked Microsoft to decouple IE from Windows. They went ahead and decided to do this all on their lonesome, those big-hearted galoots.

The European Commission wanted computer buyers to be able to choose which browser to install off a menu (with, presumably, Opera, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari listed as main courses alongside IE). So it is clearly not amused. The EC posted a response to Microsoft's announcement on its Web site:

...the Commission had suggested to Microsoft that consumers be provided with a choice of web browsers. Instead 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.

Critics of the move (in particular, Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner) are calling this a repeat of 2004, when Microsoft responded to one of the EC's antitrust rulings by cleverly/sneakily offering two versions of Windows XP for sale -- one with Windows Media Player tucked inside, one without -- for the same not-so-low price. Guess which version sold more?

This latest maneuver clearly is Microsoft's way of saying up yours to the EC, which has so far levied around $2.6 billion in fines on the company for being, well, Microsoft. Next, they'll be offering to pay the fines in Monopoly money.

Unfortunately, the problem here isn't a lack of consumer choice -- it's a lack of consumer motivation. Most people are just too damned lazy to go out and find a better browser. That's why Opera and the EC want to impose the choice upon them, and why Microsoft wants to make that process as painful as possible. If that means installing a browser from (gasp) a disc, well, that would suit Redmond just fine.

Another, bigger problem? Sites that will only work with IE or work poorly without it. Personally, I only use IE at gunpoint -- which means whenever I visit my bank's Web site, use QuickBooks online, watch a movie instantly on Netflix, or update Windows (of course). You want to fix the IE quasi-monopoly, that might be a good place to start.

In the meantime, I'll just continue using Chrome, Firefox, etc., and wait for the rest of the world (and my bank) to wise up. And I'll keep my pants on, thank you very much.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags antitrustMicrosofteuropean commissionie7Windows 7

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert X. Cringely

InfoWorld
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?