Competition Laws: Microsoft 7 without IE in Europe

Jun 15, 2009

The European Commission ruling is having an affect: Microsoft will market its new operating system in Europe without Internet Explorer.

In his blog, Microsoft lawyer and Vice President Dave Heiner, says the company was “working to fulfill its legal obligations in Europe for Windows 7” and goes on to explain how a pending legal case has raised concerns about the level of competition among browsers in Europe. He writes that Microsoft “must comply with European competition law” and adds “ we’ve decided that instead of including Internet Explorer in Windows 7 in Europe, we will offer it separately.”

Manufacturers have been informed of Microsoft's plans in an effort to keep the targeted release date of October 22. As a means of identification, the European version of Windows 7 will have an E added to the title. Manufacturers have also been told to install a browser of their choice so users can begin to surf the web immediately after purchase.

In an interview with the legal platform Groklaw, a member of the European Commission described the move as “a step in the right direction, but far from enough.” and the Microsoft attorney already has a guess. Heiner writes further, “Our decision to only offer IE separately from Windows 7 in Europe cannot, of course, preclude the possibility of alternative approaches emerging through Commission processes.”

In February 2008 the Commission served Microsoft a record fine of $900 million for breaking European competition rules. The reason was the tight linking of software applications to the operating system, making it difficult for competitors to develop alternatives. In January 2009, after a complaint by the browser company Opera, the European Commission again warned Microsoft its browser was too closely connected to Windows. The complaint was supported by the Free Software Foundation Europe, Google and Mozilla.

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