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

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News Posted: Sat, Feb 20 2010 9:16 AM
A ground-breaking event is about to occur in Europe, and it's probablynot something that most will expect. It's not some sort of UFO landingor global climate pattern; instead, it's a move by Microsoft that couldvery well change the browser world forever. Awhile back, the EuropeanCommission found it unlawful for Microsoft to sell their operatingsystems with a single, pre-built-in Web browser. Basically, the EUargued that Microsoft wasn't giving consumers a choice in their Webbrowser, while no integrated document processors or A/V editingsoftware was bundled (as an example).

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



The first external tests will begin in the UK, Belgium and France, andanyone in those nations who wish to test out the new screen (whichshouldn't be many, considering that anyone reading this now is probablyadept enough to know that IE isn't the best browser option) can tapinto Windows Update for the new file. The Browser Ballot screen updatewill be pushed out through Windows Update for Windows XP, Vista andWindows 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 highlyprofitable European sector, and you would think that it would do thesame if similar pressure were applied elsewhere. We've seen that Sonyhas started to include Google's Chrome on their VAIO notebooks (seen above), and wethink this is fantastic for the consumer. Providing a choice of havingFirefox, Chrome, IE, Opera or any other free browser means that thesecompanies have to continue to innovate in order to maintain marketshare. Over the years, Microsoft took it easy with IE innovations sinceit had such a huge market share, and now it's widely viewed in the techcommunity as the browser not to get. For those wondering about how theupdate will change their experience, have a look below.

If you are running Internet Explorer as your default browser, here iswhat you will see after the software update is installed. Anintroductory screen appears first. In the screen shot below we added afew comment bubbles to point out certain features. The introductoryscreen provides context for the next screen, which shows browseroptions.



The browser choice screen, shown below, will present you with a list ofleading browsers. In keeping with our agreement with the EuropeanCommission, this list is presented in random order. You can also scrollto the right to see additional browsers, which are also presented inrandom order. The browsers that are listed and the content relating tothem will be updated from time to time. The screen provides threeoptions: Click on “Install” to install one of the listed browsers.Click on “Tell me more” to get more information about any of thebrowsers. These links (and the browser logos and associated text) areprovided by each browser vendor. Click on “Select Later” to review thechoice screen the next time you log onto your computer. This softwareupdate will also add a shortcut to your desktop, from which you canlaunch the choice screen at any time.



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3vi1 replied on Sat, Feb 20 2010 7:41 PM

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.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

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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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3vi1 replied on Sat, Feb 20 2010 8:15 PM

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.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

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Inspector replied on Sun, Feb 21 2010 12:58 AM

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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rapid1 replied on Sun, Feb 21 2010 3:33 AM

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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mhenriday replied on Sun, Feb 21 2010 5:59 AM

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....

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3vi1 replied on Sun, Feb 21 2010 11:10 AM

>> 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

 

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

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Soupstyle replied on Sun, Feb 21 2010 11:26 AM

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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mhenriday replied on Sun, Feb 21 2010 12:42 PM

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....

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realneil replied on Sun, Feb 21 2010 1:40 PM

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.

Don't part with your illusions. When they are gone you may still exist, but you have ceased to live.

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rapid1 replied on Sun, Feb 21 2010 1:45 PM

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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rapid1 replied on Sun, Feb 21 2010 1:45 PM

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

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rapid1 replied on Sun, Feb 21 2010 2:31 PM

Deleted my monster post and moved it to the lounge!

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

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Soupstyle replied on Sun, Feb 21 2010 4:05 PM

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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rapid1 replied on Sun, Feb 21 2010 5:00 PM

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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3vi1 replied on Sun, Feb 21 2010 7:27 PM

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. :)

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

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rapid1 replied on Mon, Feb 22 2010 2:52 AM

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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mhenriday replied on Mon, Feb 22 2010 3:06 AM

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 !...

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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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rapid1 replied on Mon, Feb 22 2010 6:36 PM

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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rapid1 replied on Tue, Feb 23 2010 2:31 PM

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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3vi1 replied on Tue, Feb 23 2010 5:50 PM

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 ).

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

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rapid1 replied on Thu, Feb 25 2010 1:47 AM

I don't think M$ will ever manage that feat 3vi1 although they might like it very much, or maybe not they make a lot of money selling Apple software to (or their software compatible on an Apple) at the least. As far as what I am planning the Cisco thing is a definite I was planning on going for of course ccna and moving up to pro in the future, and Security+, and MCSA before I finish with my degree. I figure that should put me in a pretty good place, especially with 16 years hardware experience on top of it.

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rapid1 replied on Thu, Feb 25 2010 1:50 AM

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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Healthy competition is the sole factor that creates innovation, and the consumer should really see this pay off in terms of browser quality from all parties involved.

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Inspector replied on Thu, Feb 25 2010 3:54 PM

Yep agreed komando, as long as the competition doesn't get out of control to the point of be just stupid :D. Competition means consumers benefit :D

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3vi1 replied on Fri, Feb 26 2010 8:30 PM

Hehe... It's been a long time since I used OS/2. The last time I touched it was to build OS/2 Warp mail gateways to connect Lotus Notes to OfficeVision/400, GroupWise, and other some other SMTP-based mail systems. I had to install it from the 20-something(?) floppies it came on... lol.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

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3vi1 replied on Fri, Feb 26 2010 8:39 PM

>> I don't think M$ will ever manage that feat 3vi1

I stumbled upon this just yesterday: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/blog/2010/feb/23/opensource-intellectual-property

What it boils down to are (RIAA/MPAA funded) lobbyist are trying to get the 'US Trade Representative to consider countries like Indonesia, Brazil and India for its "Special 301 watchlist" because they use open source software.' I.E. if your country doesn't buy Windows, you should be sanctioned, because only MS has agreed to their technical requirements to treat all consumers like pirates and enforce DRM instead of user rights.

One day the RIAA and MPAA are going to freak out when they realize Microsoft went along so that they could move into their markets and run them out of their own businesses. Hehe

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

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mhenriday replied on Sat, Feb 27 2010 7:46 AM

Typical and completely in line with the way the US government has acted in issues like generic medicines in third-world countries. Pecuniam non olet, as the Romans said, or freely translated - self-interest never lies.  How many lobbyists do ordinary computer users employ in Washington - and how many do organisations like the RIAA, the MPAA, and Microsoft employ ?...

 

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