For the next five years, Microsoft will be serving an update to all supported Windows clients in an attempt to promote end user choice when it comes down to the default browser associated with the operating system. The European Antitrust Commission accepted a solution proposed by Microsoft, designed to boost competition on the web browser market on December 16th 2009, noting that the decision it adopted renders legally binding commitments offered by the software giant. The Redmond company will offer a Choice Screen
to Windows users in Europe via Windows Update, allowing them to choose Internet Explorer, or a rival product, as the default browser of their platform.
"Millions of European consumers will benefit from this decision by having a free choice about which web browser they use. Such choice will not only serve to improve people's experience of the internet now but also act as an incentive for web browser companies to innovate and offer people better browsers in the future," Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes says.
The decision forces Microsoft to offer the Choice Screen update for the next five years, the European Union regulators underlined, and will impact all users in the European Economic Area. For the time being, the updates served through WU will be offered to EEA customers running Windows 7 RTM
, Windows Vista (including SP2) and Windows XP (including SP3). However, due to the consistent time span, the Choice Screen is also bound to be made available through the Windows Update mechanisms to users of the next version of Windows, namely Windows 8, expected to be launched no later than three years after Windows 7, sometime in the 2011-2012 timeframe.
“The Web browser measures cover the inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows for users in Europe—specifically the region known as the European Economic Area, which includes 30 nations. Under today’s resolution, Microsoft commits that PC manufacturers and users will continue to be able to install any browser on top of Windows, to make any browser the default browser on new PCs, and to turn access to Internet Explorer on or off. In addition, Microsoft will send a “browser choice” screen to Windows users who are running Internet Explorer as their default browser. This browser choice screen will present a list of browsers, making it easy for users to install any one of them. It will be provided both to users of new computers and to the installed base of Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 computers in Europe where Internet Explorer is set as the default browser,” revealed Brad Smith, senior vice president and general counsel, Microsoft.
Via the Choice Screen, EEA customers will have the ability to select one or multiple items from a list of up to a dozen web browsers, including Internet Explorer, but also Firefox, Safari, Google Chrome, and Opera. In addition, original equipment manufacturers will have a choice of whether to turn IE on or off, and install another default browser instead, with Microsoft getting no say in this. Windows 7 already allows users to switch IE8 off and on, and it’s bound that Windows 8
will feature similar functionality.