Firefox And Company May Get Windows 7 Exposure

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft and the European Union have agreed to a compromise to their ongoing disagreement over the default use of Internet Explorer in Windows. Buyers of Windows 7 on the continent will be offered a choice of browsers at start-up, though the changes may not be made in time for the system's release.

The European Union has not officially made any final decision on whether Microsoft has breached any competition rules by including Internet Explorer -- and only Internet Explorer -- in Windows. That verdict does seem extremely likely and the only real question at this stage is what punishment Microsoft will face.

The firm had announced it would ship Windows 7 without a browser of any kind in Europe, though officials quickly noted that was an unsatisfactory solution. Those objections received relatively little media coverage so, likely to Microsoft's relief, many will have got the impression that any resulting problems -- such as how you download a browser when you don't have a browser to start off with -- were entirely the EU's fault.

Consumers Receive Multiple Choices

However, the two sides may now have reached an agreement.

Microsoft has proposed that the installation process for Windows include a screen allowing the user to choose between several rival browsers. For its part, the European Union says it "welcomes this proposal, and will now investigate its practical effectiveness in terms of ensuring genuine consumer choice." (Source:

The on-screen list would include the five or six most popular browsers in Europe, updated twice a year to reflect use in the previous six months. At the moment the list would include Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Apple's Safari and Google's Chrome. (Source:

Interestingly, it was Opera which brought the complaint leading to the investigation, while Mozilla and Google both registered as "interested parties".

Race On for Sixth?

The sixth spot, if one was listed, would be a tight-run battle amongst smaller search engines. While there's an argument that making this space available would help promote alternatives to the major players, there's a risk that whichever firm was in sixth spot at launch would hold onto it permanently because of the exposure through Windows.

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