Microsoft finally plans to ship the latest version of its Windows operating system in Europe without its Internet Explorer web browser, countering pressure from European regulators.
Microsoft's decision comes before the European Commission is due to rule on antitrust charges brought against Microsoft in January, claiming that the company abuses its dominant position by bundling its Internet Explorer browser, shielding it from head-to-head competition with rival products.
"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," said Dave Heiner, Vice president and Deputy General Counsel, Microsoft. "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," Heiner added.
Until now, Microsoft has claimed that the browser was an integral part of the operating system and should not be pulled out, but it now plans to do that for a European version of Windows 7, due to be rolled out later this year.
Windows 7 will be available to consumers worldwide on October 22nd. The new operating system will be offered in Europe in all of the versions that will be available 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's move could yet be a boon for competing browser makers such as Google, the Mozilla Foundation and Opera Software, whose complaints spurred the European Commission case against Microsoft.
Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser is used for about 60 percent of global Internet traffic, Mozilla's Firefox has about 30 percent, and Opera is at 4 percent, just ahead of Google and Apple's Safari, according to Web analytics firm StatCounter.