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.