Microsoft To Begin "Browser Ballot" Rollout In Europe Next Week - HotHardware
Microsoft To Begin "Browser Ballot" Rollout In Europe Next Week

Microsoft To Begin "Browser Ballot" Rollout In Europe Next Week

A ground-breaking event is about to occur in Europe, and it's probably not something that most will expect. It's not some sort of UFO landing or global climate pattern; instead, it's a move by Microsoft that could very well change the browser world forever. Awhile back, the European Commission found it unlawful for Microsoft to sell their operating systems with a single, pre-built-in Web browser. Basically, the EU argued that Microsoft wasn't giving consumers a choice in their Web browser, while no integrated document processors or A/V editing software was bundled (as an example).

Microsoft has just announced that "internal testing of the choice screen is underway now," and that a limited roll-out will begin next week. By March 1st, the much-hyped "Browser Ballot" will be rolled out across Europe. What this will do is notify Windows users that they have a choice in their Web browser, and they can also disable or enable Internet Explorer much more easily than that has been in the past. According to Microsoft, the " browser choice screen will present a list of browsers, with links to learn more about them and install them."



The first external tests will begin in the UK, Belgium and France, and anyone in those nations who wish to test out the new screen (which shouldn't be many, considering that anyone reading this now is probably adept enough to know that IE isn't the best browser option) can tap into Windows Update for the new file. The Browser Ballot screen update will be pushed out through Windows Update for Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 machines, so pretty much everyone in Europe should get this. It will also be included on new copies of the operating systems.

It should be interesting to see if other nations take notice here; Microsoft clearly caved in order to keep a good standing in the highly profitable European sector, and you would think that it would do the same if similar pressure were applied elsewhere. We've seen that Sony has started to include Google's Chrome on their VAIO notebooks (seen above), and we think this is fantastic for the consumer. Providing a choice of having Firefox, Chrome, IE, Opera or any other free browser means that these companies have to continue to innovate in order to maintain market share. Over the years, Microsoft took it easy with IE innovations since it had such a huge market share, and now it's widely viewed in the tech community as the browser not to get. For those wondering about how the update will change their experience, have a look below.

If you are running Internet Explorer as your default browser, here is what you will see after the software update is installed. An introductory screen appears first. In the screen shot below we added a few comment bubbles to point out certain features. The introductory screen provides context for the next screen, which shows browser options.



The browser choice screen, shown below, will present you with a list of leading browsers. In keeping with our agreement with the European Commission, this list is presented in random order. You can also scroll to the right to see additional browsers, which are also presented in random order. The browsers that are listed and the content relating to them will be updated from time to time. The screen provides three options: Click on “Install” to install one of the listed browsers. Click on “Tell me more” to get more information about any of the browsers. These links (and the browser logos and associated text) are provided by each browser vendor. Click on “Select Later” to review the choice screen the next time you log onto your computer. This software update will also add a shortcut to your desktop, from which you can launch the choice screen at any time.



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I believe this is a good thing, for users and for Windows security. Greater diversity will make it harder for crackers to compromise as many machines with a single exploit.

Also, maybe this will be a catalyst for the lazier web designers to actually write standards-compliant sites instead of adding javascript to test if your browser is IE or Firefox and failing if it's not.

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I do find one thing about not letting IE be installed on machines sold in Europe funny though. Tell me someone, how is it that you are supposed to be able to download the web browser of your choice if you are not tech savy and do not have a browser installed on your machine at all?

"I'll just install Firefox... wait a minute. How the $&*%! am I supposed to download it?"

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The "choice" utility does the download for you.  (And probably won't go away until at least one is installed.)

If you were stuck on a machine with absolutely no browser, you could always boot a Linux LiveCD to download a Windows browser... haha. And, there's always FTP, wget, or curl if you know the URL and want to do the download via the command line.

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wasn't this done a while ago? im confused...

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So this is shipping with 12 browsers? All the main ones are there on the first screen, how soon till we see this number ballooning to unmanageable proportions?

@3vi1 I agree, the browser diversity will make it much harder for hackers, but I'm not sure about having to download a browser. A few should be available on the Windows installation disk, especially for computer novices.

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Rofl; this is funny though make Microsoft pay to advertise other people's product, as well as make an auto installer for it. I mean in all truth if Microsoft said forget Europe then. We won't sell Windows there anymore and disable every version in the country, by our wonderful new GA tool what would they say then?

I am not saying any of it's right or wrong, it just seems quite ludicrous to make the market holding company advertise, and develop installation links etc for there competition.

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Nice that less computer-savvy users in Europe are being made aware of the fact that 1) such a thing as a web browser exists and 2) that they actually have a choice as to which browser to use, even if they have, without possessing sufficient knowledge to make a choice in the matter, purchased a computer with an pre-installed OS (what's an OS ?) from you know whom. Hopefully, this will further encourage competition in the browser field, something which should benefit us all, those who know more about computers as well as those who know less. I'm no fan of the EC, but I applaud this particular decision. As to Microsoft disabling every Windows OS in Europe with that wonderful (and wonderfully named) GA tool, that would indeed be cutting off its Pinnocchio-length nose to spite its face....

Henri

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>> if Microsoft said forget Europe then. We won't sell Windows there anymore and disable every version in the country, by our wonderful new GA tool what would they say then?

They'd say something like:

"Too bad you just threw away your monopoly; Thanks for turning on 832 million users to Linux and OSX. Luckily, we've been pushing Linux at the governmental levels for years."

I'm not sure you're aware of how bad Microsoft actually behaved: The problem was that MS leveraged their OS monopoly to specifically run Netscape out of business in order to make sure browsers did not give you, the consumer, more freedom of choice.

Microsoft had tried to get NetScape to work with them - the idea being to expand the browser in a non-standards-compliant proprietary Win-only way to make sure that large portions, if not all, of the Internet would only be accessible via their OS.

Netscape wouldn't go along, so Microsoft created their own browser and tied it to the OS (which would later prove horrific for security) in a manner such that normal users could never remove it. Microsoft's own words were that this was to "cut off [Netscape's] air supply". Netscape had actually been a profitable company, until then - selling boxed copies and actively developing their standards-compliant browser.

Microsoft knew that if people wrote code to the APIs of the browser, and not the OS, that customers wouldn't be artificially locked into the OS and they would have to compete on price and features. Everything they've done has been to reduce consumer options and eliminate competition, not improve things for their users.

After Netscape was dead in the browser market, IE6 would sit unimproved for years while MS tried to steer everyone toward using ActiveX Win32-only APIs.

The EU remediations are to ensure that Microsoft has a harder time leveraging their monopoly share in this manner to prevent fair competition.  Microsoft, in the meantime, sees HTML5 coming and that Adobe Flash has actually become a viable cross-platform middleware API, so they're pushing SilverLight as a way to kill both of those and re-lock the users into a Windows-only API, regardless of browser.

There's a great EU document that details how Microsoft continually does this. I think everyone, love or hate MS, should read it: http://www.ecis.eu/documents/Finalversion_Consumerchoicepaper.pdf

 

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It's too bad that the US gov't loves money too much to ever force MS to force them to do this here.

@ Inspector - Yes the decision for MS to have to do this was handed down a while ago, but MS ignored it while they appealed it, then they ignored it even after they lost appeals so the EU fined them (again) and MS is finally following the rulings.

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Thanks for posting this link, 3vi1. Amazing that some people in the US attempt to defend these preditory practices on the part of Microsoft on the grounds that it is a US-based company ! What they don't seem to realise is that, next to the Chinese, people in the United States constitute the major victims. But then again, some people naturally run with the fox, while others run with the hounds....

Henri

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By 3vi1: "Microsoft created their own browser and tied it to the OS (which would later prove horrific for security)"

Horrific for security was an understatement. Each new iteration of IE proved to be less secure than the last and using IE was like being 'Slowly Pecked To Death By Chickens'. I had so many computer crashes caused by IE's lack of security and standards that I swore to NEVER use it again. I have stuck with my oath and never looked back. I'm not missing a thing either, except an exploit or two. (hundred)

Nowadays, the people writing hacks are supported by big money and resources too. They will not be going away anytime soon. This means that having a browser that is 'basically' secure is only the first step. Luckily there are many free anti-virus and anti-spyware solutions out there for us to tap into.

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Oh wow there is a new posting monster it seems. I was just finishing with a 4 paragraph response on this and bang it refreshed and was deleted.

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Keep a clip in the clipboard per paragraph I guess :)

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Deleted my monster post and moved it to the lounge!

http://hothardware.com/cs/forums/t/46856.aspx

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Wall of Text crits Soupstyle for damage.

Soupstyle passes out from eye strain.

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Lol rapid, I lost you about a third of the way through!

@3vi1, awesome link. The part on Netscape is an incredible read.

“Microsoft first proposed to Netscape that, rather than compete with each other, the two

companies should enter an illegal conspiracy to divide up the market. When Netscape

refused, Microsoft then used its Windows monopoly to, in Microsoft’s own words, ‘cut off

Netscape’s air supply.’”

—Joel Klein, Assistant Attorney General

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Sorry for the huge post, I was just trying to express what I though, and how I see that many of these things impact the world.

The split in society right now is very large I think from those who at least understand technology in general, and those who do not. Those who do not seem to be  the larger in number. However; these individuals also to a large degree populate the ruling groups in the world. Therefore the split in technology is impacted in a large way from what I see on the negative side. This is largely because of this negative knowledge and viewpoint's. The main issue here is technology moves so fast now, and the impact rides along with it! There fore the more incomplete things they put in the picture, and or the slower they react, the more nothing or negative impact it accomplishes. It is to late really to do much to Microsoft mainly because they reacted 10 years to late.

This also applies to the threats of Cyber security the US is facing as well. I feel that basically advertising a weakness is the entirely wrong way to go. A concerted and organized effort by any group on the points which they showed on a visible map would basically make the US Government a hostage in a very, very short period of time, with no physical forces at all on a front line. So all these decisions and future plans are mute ones at best which do nothing except advertise there slothful ways, in a world which moves at the speed of sound (Ethernet), soon to be the speed of light (Fiber) ! Basically they have to a large point at least presently already lost there fights before they started.

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Rapid1, thanks for your monsterpost ! In my opinion, the situation with regard to the browser market is not quite as dark as you seem to fear («The first thing is M$ already controls the computers of every 6-7 out of 10 individuals. So the larger percentage will just choose to stay with there browser as well as anything else the make at least to a much larger percentage.»), as can be seen from these statistics from StatCounter (http://preview.tinyurl.com/y98zp4k ), which shows that world-wide, IE's share of the market (all versions) is down to 54 %. The only significant exception is the situation in China, where over 60 % seem to be using IE6 !...

Henri 

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I would just like to say thanks to everyone in this thread for keeping an open mind and discussing this rationally. I realize that I must come of as an anti-MS Linux fanboy a large portion of the time, but I hope that I've at least been able to communicate that there are actual reasons for my opinions.

I've used MSDOS and Windows since the early days - and still use it every day at work. I've written many programs for Windows in my career, and invested a lot of time learning various windows APIs like MFC, ATL, DirectX and the .Net foundation classes. So, at the very least I can't be accused of bashing MS because I haven't given Windows a chance. :)

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Oh no not at all 3vi1. I actually look at you as a very, very knowledgeable person on this. I am not saying this I use Linux to, I just also use Windows. I am also not very comfortable writing software at least not yet, which is in many cases probably why. I will get some experience in classes later this year to start learning it. I still use Linux just not like you do, I would consider you a super advanced user. I can do a lot with hardware of any kind and have been doing so for over 10 years. This includes any kind of hardware network or computer (as well as many other things car's whatever I can work on it or figure it out), I am just best on computer's.

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lol can't Microsoft just be like if you wanna see your browser on the screen, your gonna have to pay us X amount of money. Great way for Microsoft to continue monopolizing the computer industry.

 

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In fact 3vi1 maybe I will get you to send me some reference's for general Linux as well as software writing start points. I am sure you know many, and would be able to point me in the right direction, off of the common path.

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Hey 3vi1 as you may or may not know, I have gone back to school (about to get an Associates in Computer science next month), and am looking to go eventually to a masters level. I am concentrating right now within my bachelors studies in security administration, as well as network administration. What is your outlook on this as you seem to be very experienced in different parts of this market? I am asking for advice on specializations professionally (such as Cisco, Linux, M$ etc), to kind of prune my path if you get my drift. What do you see as the place to be in the near and far future?

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In the 1982 OS/2 Programmers guide, Bill Gates said "I believe OS/2 is destined to be the most important operating system, and possibly program, of all time." Unfortunately, none of us can pretend to be any better at predicting the future than he was. Heheh

Nowadays I primarily do networking at an all Cisco, all Microsoft (ironic, eh?) shop with 70+ sites in 19+ (ever increasing) countries. Now, while management has long perceived (and sometimes actually enjoyed) a benefit in single supplier chains, it's of the utmost importance for us technical guys to get as much experience with as many diverse systems as possible.

So, that leads to the primary recommendation: touch *everything*. Even if just briefly, know the alternative options - even if you don't plan to use them. You can't make good recommendations for a solution (or speak competently in a technical interview) if you don't know of those other options. Also, in todays world, we never know when our companies might merge with another and we have to move quick to integrate alien systems.

If you do go into network administration, knowing VoIP (and by extension a bit about QoS) well can't hurt. It's popping up everywhere, and you'll run into a relatively smaller group of people that understand it end-to-end than general networking. It's probably smart to concentrate on the Cisco implementations, as they're more mature and are deployed in more environments.

Sorry that my answer might be exactly the opposite of what you hoped, but I don't want to kid you: There are probably even more diverse environments in our future (as long as MS doesn't succeed in making distribution of all other OS's illegal in the US :p ).

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Oh and lol speaking of OS2 that was the first OS I used following Win 3.11 I think it was. I liked it better at the time after the next windows upgrade though I started using it as a main OS. I use Linux in various forms as well, but Windows has always stayed on a partition. I just find it more functional as Windows will basically work with everything or at least to the largest percentage.

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