and the EU are finally close to an agreement on how Windows 7
's browser should be configured after months of negotiation. Initially, Redmond's idea was to ship the OS without a browser at all, a move the EU nixed, as it felt this would result in consumers being offered less value, rather than more. Microsoft's new idea, unveiled last July and batted back and forth several times since, was to include a "Choose Your Browser" option as part of Windows 7 startup.
After further negotiation, that's the solution the EU is expected to agree to. Consumers who purchase the OS retail will be shown a list of browsers, an explanation of what a browser is, and a link they can click on for more information; users will have the option of installing Internet Explorer plus another browser, or eschewing IE entirely. As for which browsers it might offer, Microsoft is likely to err on the side of caution; Firefox, Chrome, Opera, and Safari are the likely suspects. It's implied (though not confirmed) that the "choose your browser" deal will stretch across all of the flavors of Windows Microsoft currently sells, although the focus to date has been on the upcoming Windows 7.
What EU customers might be seeing in a few short months.
Longer term, Microsoft's antitrust deal with the EU could shed new light on consumer preferences. Traditionally, Microsoft has maintained that consumers have always had a choice of browsers, and pointed towards the success of competitive browers like Firefox as proof that it held no special monopoly over the marker. The counter-argument to that has been that computer users tend to use whatever default has been installed on the system, and that consumers would choose other options if they were aware of them. If the current scheme is approved, both sides will finally have a chance to test their respective theories.
An EU-MS agreement over browser selection would clear the company's table in one area, but Microsoft is already bracing for a fresh round of scrutiny. The company's advertising deal with Yahoo—announced
earlier this year—still faces regulatory scrutiny in both the EU and the US; the two companies must prove that their agreement will not harm market competition.