It's already been made clear by Microsoft that Internet Explorer 8 can be uninstalled, or disabled
, from Windows 7, which is due to launch on Oct. 22nd. However, the company is going still further in Europe, where it will not sell any versions of Windows 7 that contain IE.
first uncovered the change, via a leaked memo. This is obviously a pre-emptive "strike" at E.U. regulators, who have looked askance at some of Microsoft's practices.
In part, the memo, which has already been delivered to OEMs, said:
"To ensure that Microsoft is in compliance with European law, Microsoft will be releasing a separate version of Windows 7 for distribution in Europe that will not include Windows Internet Explorer," the software maker said in the memo. "Microsoft will offer IE8 separately and free of charge and will make it easy and convenient for PC manufacturers to preinstall IE 8 on Windows 7 machines in Europe if they so choose. PC manufacturers may choose to install an alternative browser instead of IE 8, and has always been the case, they may install multiple browsers if they wish."
While at first not responding to a C|Net inquiry, once the "cat was out of the bag," Microsoft posted
an entry on its Law and Policy blog. Here's what they said, in part:
The worldwide launch of Windows 7 is fast approaching, but a pending legal case raises concerns about the sufficiency of competition among the Web browsers that are available to Windows users in Europe. In January the European Commission provided its preliminary view that Microsoft’s “bundling” of Internet Explorer in Windows violated European competition law.
We’re committed to making Windows 7 available in Europe at the same time that it launches in the rest of the world, but we also must comply with European competition law as we launch the product. Given the pending legal proceeding, we’ve decided that instead of including Internet Explorer in Windows 7 in Europe, we will offer it separately and on an easy-to-install basis to both computer manufacturers and users. This means that computer manufacturers and users will be free to install Internet Explorer on Windows 7, or not, as they prefer. Of course, they will also be free, as they are today, to install other Web browsers.
Based on the progress our development teams have made, we announced last week that Windows 7 will be available to consumers worldwide on October 22nd. In order to meet that release date, we needed to start telling computer manufacturers this week exactly what to expect in Windows 7 so they can begin all of the engineering and operational work necessary to have PCs available in stores in October. We began that process earlier this week.
Windows 7 will be offered in Europe in all of the versions that will be available here in the United States, both 32- and 64-bit, with an “E” at the end of the product name (for instance, Windows 7 Home Premium E). The E versions of Windows 7 will ship at the same time as Windows 7 ships in the rest of the world, and they will be available in 23 European languages.
Microsoft will also remove IE8 from the "N" versions of Windows 7, which also removes the Windows Media Player from the OS as a result of another decision by Europe's antitrust bodies. Although this move makes one wonder about Microsoft's past statements, whereupon the company has said that the browser was integral to the OS and could not easily be removed, it was already clear when Microsoft confirmed the ability to disable IE8 in Windows 7 they were already thinking along these lines.