Microsoft Browser Ballot Fails; EU Investigates

Dennis Faas's picture

The European Union (EU) is investigating claims that Microsoft isn't providing other browser makers full access to Windows 8. It comes at the same time the EU is deciding whether to punish the company for breaching previous promises to offer new Windows users a "browser ballot" that promotes browsers like Safari and Firefox.

The newest probe concerns two allegations: the first covers all versions of Windows 8, the accusation being that Microsoft isn't providing full access to application programming interfaces (APIs).

Rival Browser Could Have Limited Windows 8 Access

In this context, an API is a code set that works like a translator and allows two pieces of software made by rival firms to work together smoothly. In this case, the API would connect a web browser to Windows 8.

Without full API access, the non-Microsoft browsers would not be able to take advantage of all the features available in Windows 8, and could be less effective.

The second allegation refers specifically to Windows RT, the version of Windows 8 designed to work on portable devices like tablets. The EU has received complaints that non-Microsoft browsers could be blocked completely from Windows RT. (Source:

Microsoft Admits It Screwed Up "Browser Ballot"

After a previous investigation into whether Microsoft's Internet Explorer was the default browser in Windows gave it an unfair advantage, Microsoft agreed to launch a browser choice screen, or "browser ballot" program, for four years (starting in 2010).

This screen displayed a list of a dozen different browsers when a European user first started up a new Windows computer. The user then had to choose which browsers they wanted to install.

Microsoft has now admitted that it made a blunder with Windows 7 because the browser ballot only appeared in the system's original release. That meant anyone who bought a new computer where the manufacturer had already installed Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) updates would not see the browser ballot screen.

Microsoft says this may have affected 28 million users. (Source:

European officials see this as a serious issue, meaning it may be the first time a company is found guilty of breaching an antitrust order.

While Microsoft is hoping the issue will be treated lightly because the breach was unintentional, the maximum penalty is a fine worth 10 per cent of the company's annual turnover, which in this case would be $7 billion.

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