back to article EC drops Microsoft browser probe

Brussels has ditched some of its antitrust action against Microsoft, after the software giant agreed to offer Windows customers a choice of web browsers via its operating system. Microsoft will avoid further fines from regulators at the competition arm of the European Commission, if it gives Windows users a pop-up screen that …


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  1. Andrew Baines Silver badge
    Paris Hilton


    A choice of 12 browsers? Surely not?

    Paris cos she likes a choice.

    1. The Original Ash

      Yes, 12

      IE 1,

      IE 2,

      IE 3,

      IE 4,

      IE 4.5,

      IE 5,

      IE 5.5,

      IE 6,

      IE 7,

      IE 8,




      Ok, 13! Unlucky for some... Presumably the IE 1 users.

      1. Mark Broadhurst

        The 12 Browsers

        Apple Safari, Google Chrome, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, AOL, Maxthon, K-Meleon, Flock, Avant Browser, Sleipnir and Slim Browser

        According to

    2. Bill Gould


      ...I'd love to see the list of 12.

  2. Anne Frank

    EC says you're all too thick to use a PC!

    it seems that the EC wants to enforce the ability for Microsoft to offer up crap like Opera (there's a reason why it's free... no-one would pay for crap like that!)

    however... it seems that this suggests that all PC users are completely incapable of using Microsoft IE to navigate around the porn and BitTorrent sites, to find such pearls as or Apple's site to download such jewels like Firefox or Safari....

    surely anyone who can turn on a PC and find a picture of a naked woman on the net can find Google and install a different browser (such as Firefox) without needing a Choice Screen from M$ to help install it! or are the EC assuming we're all too thick to understand how to download software off the net????

    also.... what happens to new build machines that don't have a net connection (surely not in this day and age!) but when someone buys a new PC, it's not immediately plugged into the 'net, so how will this Choice Screen cater for people who don't immediately want to use their new computer to find p0rn? Will there be an option to defer selecting which browser you wish to use until you've actually plugged the PC into a network cable to get online???

    1. Iggle Piggle


      > Kroes said Microsoft’s biz strategy of tying its IE browser to the firm’s Windows OS

      > was akin to a supermarket only offering one brand of shampoo on the shelf, with

      > all other choices tucked away out of sight.

      Which might, at worst, be considered a stupid thing to do by the supermarket but it what way does EU law force supermarkets to display prominently or even sell other brands of shampoo? The next time I walk into a Audi garage I shall demand to know where all the cheap Japanese cars are and then promptly pop along to the Apple store to winge about the lack of Microsoft based products.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      Have you not heard of WindowsUpdate or "Programs and Features"?

      There are more than one way to download software. If memory serves me correctly, M$ already agreed to provide the other browsers via WindowsUpdate already.

      Paris... because she likes to do things in more than one way.

    3. Ralph 1

      Re: EC says you're all too thick to use a PC!

      @ Anne Frank: "surely anyone who can turn on a PC and find a picture of a naked woman on the net can find Google and install a different browser"

      No, my personal experience doesn't support that statement. When I've worked on friends' computers - patching up some mess they've naively gotten into - I often suggest they consider other browsers. It takes a while for them to get their heads around it because many simply think that "Internet Explorer" and "the Internet" are synonymous. They had no idea that Internet Explorer is just one of many portals through which this data can be accessed.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Thumb Up

        @Ralph 1

        "It takes a while for them to get their heads around it because many simply think that "Internet Explorer" and "the Internet" are synonymous."

        Exactly. One of Billy boys finest tricks. Getting a generation of users, operators and developrs to believe that "There is no other OS but Windows. Only MS apps can work with it" Of course continuing to leave API calls undocumented (regular in DOS, turns out not to be unknown in Windows either) helps a lot here.

        I remain staggered at how long MS have pulled this BS off. I cannot conceive of any serious reason why a *normal* browser has to be integrated into an OS running on a normal PC. Only a stupidly baroque re-architecting of the OS so other parts of it use parts of the browser would justify it and the *only* likely reason to do that would be to justifying needing the browser in the first place.

        Yes that is a circular argument.

  3. Mark Broadhurst
    Jobs Horns

    If only Apple would follow suit.

    I cant see it tho Safari a Mac Browser on Mac OS by default is a massivly different kettle of fish than a Ms Browser on a MS OS by default

    1. A J Stiles

      Why it's different for Apple

      Apple are not a de facto monopoly.

      Also, Apple include the developer tools that you need in order to build one of the Open Source browsers from Source Code.

      1. Mark Broadhurst
        Jobs Horns

        Why use our browser when you can build one ?

        I think your average user will not know how to read code let alone compile it.

  4. CD001



    There will also be an option for OEMs and customers to switch off IE and make a different browser the default option in Windows.


    Which, really, is all that needed doing... assuming you could get MS not to strong-arm the OEMs of course.

    1. idasben

      RE: dumdedum

      Exactly, all that needed to be implemented was the ability for OEMs to completely remove it if they wanted (with legally removed strong arming) as well as givin users the option to remove IE once they've got a new browser.

      Also, Opera's metaphor that it's just like going to the supermarket and getting only one choice of shampoo is complete rubbish. Its in fact like choosing to buy a product at the supermarket, taking it home then the EU now forcing the shampoo company to give you a set of options of which shampoo you want.

      The problem is that whilst it is true Microsoft do have a 90%+ market share, they're still selling their own product. If people are too stupid/lazy/just don't care to change, then they don't change. It's Operas problem for not advertising, everyone else does, even Google have had a recent spate of paper based adverts for chrome, they've got the idea that they can't just make something and hope that people download it!

      Finally, I would like to know where all those billions of fines have gone. The software industry is a soft target, nobody has been made redundant directly from these fines, however if these kind of fines were placed on another industry with a monopoly (there are other monopolies out there!) and it caused any job losses, everyone would be up in arms. As it's a software company though, clearly the EU can just tax them until they stop selling products to the EU.

      1. Mark Broadhurst

        Google Chrome Adverts

        They are still going on at the Westfield in London.

  5. Ned Fowden


    if you're unable to use IE to go out on the net and find alternatives then IMO you shouldn't be using a computer in the first place.

    oh woe is me ... competition is hurting over FREE TO USE browsers

    pathetic is the only word i feel sums this situation up

    1. M Gale

      The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

      Right. Let's say you're on the board of Microsoft, hypothetically speaking. First you bundle your browser into the OS. Your OS already has a high-90s percent monopoly, so everyone uses your browser.

      Then, you make the browser do nonstandard things that only your browser supports. Because your browser is the default on ninety-something percent of all home computers, you'll find web developers that start using these funky extensions.

      Once lots of web sites are using standards that only your browser is capable of supporting (thanks to using calls to proprietary APIs like DirectX, or using some other Microsoft-specific security hole like ActiveX), you stop making your browser for anything other than your OS.

      Congratulations. Now the few people who don't run your OS can't go on the web properly, because lots of sites out there won't run on other web browsers. You've just turned a big chunk of the Internet into your proprietary play-thing, and have vendor lock-in on a global scale. At least that's the plan, though it seems Microsoft has been handed more than one bitch-slap over that idea with this being the latest.

      That's a rough guide to Embrace, Extend, Extinguish for you. Do some searching and you can probably find more on the subject. Basically, this is about more than some "free" browser.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    <3 Neelie

    Neelie ftw :)

  7. mforster

    But you WILL still need it

    All very well except that some of their own webs sites only work in Internet Explorer. i.e. the European Aviation Safey Agency.

    1. bob3

      Re: But you WILL still need it


      no, can't confirm that.

    2. Rasczak

      Seems OK to me

      No I am not sure what exactly the site should be doing, but it seemed to do everything I asked of it in Opera. The W3C validator only gives one error, a target attribute that is entered as upper case rather than lower case.

      Maybe you have some ad blocking set up that doesn't like the URL starting "http://ad."

      If I add "http://ad.*/*" to content blocker I don't get the site at all, remove it and I see no problem.

  8. Bassey


    Twelve Windows Browsers? Really? Anyone care to enlighten? Obviously we have IE, FF, Opera and Chrome. There is another Mozilla one whose name escapes me. That still leaves seven.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Well there's

      Mozilla Powerraccoon, Mozilla Fireostrich, Ludmilla Fartbucket, Godzilla Arsebiscuit et cetera et cetera! Lot more than 12 actually.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OEM choice

    How about a choice screen on first running OEM Windows machines where I can choose not to have Google toolbar/desktop, MAcfee trial AV etc installed in the first place.

    Rather than having to remove it myself and still find traces lingering in other profiles.

  10. Dave Harris


    I'm guessing that you still have to have IE if you want the latest MS patches and fixes. So it's not really levelling the playing field at al.

    Unless I've missed something

    1. M 6
      Thumb Down


      Hey Dave,

      Would you expect a Jaguar dealer to fix your Ford?...

      1. Chris iverson

        For a time

        Yes I would when Ford owned Jaguar

      2. MJI Silver badge

        M 6 16:39 of course

        A Jaguar X-Type shares a lot of components with a Mondeo - so of course they should

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      @ Dave Harris

      "I'm guessing that you still have to have IE if you want the latest MS patches and fixes. So it's not really levelling the playing field at al.

      Unless I've missed something"

      Perhaps the "Automatic Updates" icon in the Control Panel?

      It's long puzzled me why there is no option on this for "Check MS now for updates"

      A neat way to spread some FUD "OMG, I'll never be able to figure out how to update Windows! I'll be at the mercy of all those hackers and terrorists and scammers and paedoterrorists and..."

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I think we know

      that IE is still deeply embedded in the OS and they just offer to remove access to it? Me (in XP), I have FF set as default, access to IE 'removed' - but the IE Tab extension with Windows Update always set to use the IE engine. No prob.

      But you don't even need that if you use Automatic Updates (set to notify only). You just don't get the option of non-critical updates, except for the shitehawk WGA bollux they include - still! - that I for one hide but has never been needed for anything whatsoever.

    4. Anonymous Coward

      Never let the facts get in the way of bare naked prejudice

      Windows Vista - you know, the one they released three years ago - introduced a standalone Windows Update utility, that doesn't rely on Internet Explorer.

      Is your hatred of Microsoft so fundamental to your sense of self that you feel the need to comment on a topic that you obviously don't have any direct experience of. It's not as if this is some weird, arcane fact, it's been mentioned in the comments on just about every article the Register has carried about the browser ballot box on Windows 7.

  11. Wolf 1
    Thumb Up

    Same old same old

    The next few months will be interesting. What happens when the status quo stays the status quo? :)

    I'll officially go on record to say IE's share won't change from this action, proving yet again that the EU (and Neelie Kroos in particular) are idiots. After all, the N version of XP sold *so* well... (chuckle).

    And lets not forget how paniced the EC was when MS said "you don't want a browser? Fine, no browser for you!" :)

  12. Lewis Mettler 1

    all customers still must purchase the company shampoo

    The shampoo analogy works but not as the EU commission claims.

    Microsoft is given the green light to continue to force all consumers to purchase IE. That is completely unchanged. And now the EU Commission has itself violated the very laws it claims to enforce.

    Being forced to buy the company shampoo every time you go to the store will never permit a fair and open marketplace for browsers. Oh sure, competitors can give away their shampoo outside the store. But, all consumers must first purchase IE.

    The EU Commission is incapable of doing its job. It has completely failed upon two occasions now. All competitors are excluded from having a fair and open marketplace.

    Monopolist must absolutely love the idiots at the commission.

  13. M 6

    Kick Neelie Kroes OUT

    I cannot begin to understand how much time and money this woman has wasted with Microsoft and forcing them to allow a choice of browsers

    I quote Neelie - "It is as if you went to the supermarket and they only offered you one brand of shampoo on the shelf, and all the other choices are hidden out the back and not everyone knows about them," "What we are saying today is that all the brands should be on the shelf."

    In that context, what about Aldi or Lidl who only offer their own branded goods. If you don't like what you see on the shelf, shop elsewhere you silly b****.

    I do not see her going after Apple to make them offer competing browsers on a Mac, why is this so? I would say this should be next on her list but she'll only be wasting even more of our money.

    Fail - because nothing is more FAIL than Mrs Kroes

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      More fail than Kroes

      All the twats who don't understand how M$ got their market share in the first place - or who think you can do what the fuck you like, such as drive all the corner shops/ mom and pops out of business on your way to world domination. Now there's an analogy to the supermarkets!

    2. Anonymous Coward


      Quote: I cannot begin to understand how much time and money this woman has wasted with Microsoft

      The EU is several hundred million Euros better off due to the anti-trust action against MS you dimwit. I would call that extremely good value for money.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings

    The browser issue may be over but I bet MS will be hauled before the EU again over something else within two years.

  15. bob3


    Why is it so difficult understanding anti-trust law? IMO the shampoo and the Audi metaphors are not depicted correctly.

    It's in fact like the shampoo company not only owing the supermarket, but more importantly, the supermarket chain having a market dominating position of some 90 % of all supermarkets (AND btw, the shampoo having a > 50 % market share).

    Similarly, it is like Audi having a 90 % market share of the car market and producing only Audi car radios, another brand may not fit or you'll have to "install" it yourself (= needing a mechanic, just as some 75 % are not able to intall any software themselves - some posters are iMO too optimistic here).

    That's what anti-trust code is for: Trying to correct only very serious market distortions. The example some posters think of don't compare well.

    I can't think of any market that is this extreme, whether or not one may like the EU ruling in this case or not.

  16. M 6
    Thumb Down

    @Lewis Mettler


    No one needs to purchase IE, it's free. Your analogy is completely wrong.

    It's more like walking in to a shop, them giving you a voucher for free shampoo of their own brand (why would give another brand away for free eh??). If you don't like it, don't friggin use it.

    1. Rasczak

      IE Free?

      IE is not free, it costs about 150 quid, but you do get an operating system to go with it. Can you get IE for free for linux or OSX ? Can you get Opera, Firefox, Chrome, Lynx etc for these for free ?

      The analogy is pretty close. There is a supermarket with over 90% of the stores, and every time you buy anything you get their shampoo included in the purchase. Thing is the shampoo needs you to wash you hair in a specific way and only that way, differently to how you would think hair should be washed. Of course as everyone gets the shampoo included they use it and just get used to washing their hair the strange way. Other shampoo makers start handing out their shampoo free at the doors, and a few people start using it and leaving the store shampoo unused, but they find that they can't do all the hair washing they want as a lot of hair has broken itself to only work with the strange method.

      Of course in IE's case we are not talking shampoo, there is no sham about it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        IE is Free - try buying it

        Dummy - you pay for the o/s but IE is free - when IE8 was made available it was available as a FREE download - you didn't have to pay for it.

        As someone else said earlier - never let the truth stand in the way of a good amount of prejudice.

        At the end of the day all browsers are free and you have been able to use whichever browser you want - so what's with all the whinging ... so Vista / W7 comes with IE - first thing go download firefox or mozilla or whatever and chnage it - problem solved ... for most non technical users - they couldn't care less - they just want to access Google, Amazon , or whatever - the browser is just a mechanism not the end result..

        And before someone calls me a fanboy - i Use Linux, Unix, Mac and WIndows systems. :) all good for the jobs they do for me and I've been in IT for a long time.... the o/s "religious wars" are frankly pathetic.

        Life's too short to get uptight about such trivial matters... I think some of you need to get out of the darkened rooms and find a real life...

        1. Rasczak

          Ok then I will call you a fanboy

          Please tell me where you downloaded, for free, the full installer for IE8 for your Linux, Unix and Mac systems, I am sure that everyone will be interested to test them.

          The IE8 installer for any compatible version of Windows, try running it on Windows 2000 or earlier, is an upgrade to the operating system, not a browser in itself, so you need to buy the operating system to use it. If I want I can put Opera 10.10 on Windows all the way back to 98, Mac OSX, Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris, QNX, OS/2 and BeOS.

          Of course if you really thought, "the o/s "religious wars" are frankly pathetic", then you would know that this is about more than just using a different browser if you want, this would help towards us being more operating system agnostic, ie (no pun intended), it's a web page, what does it matter what operating system or browser you are using.

          1. M 6


            Microsoft doesn't support it on the Linux, Unix or Mac (any more). Do you care? If so find another browser.

            It. is. still. free.

            People are just whining because they have an OS with parts that they don't want, so that means they shouldn't have to pay for it. BS. I don't want wireless support on my desktop as I'll never use it but it's part of the emcompassing package of Windows that I myself AGREED to pay for. Do I whine about having to pay for it? No. If I didn't like it, I would choose something else.

            1. Rasczak

              Define free

              You obviously don't get it. If you want to use IE, you have to pay, you cannot get it legally without a financial cost. Neither is it free in the sense you are free to use it how you like, it is the exact opposite.

              This is not about it being there and not wanting to pay for it as I don't use it, it is about it being there as a core part of the OS, being impossible to remove without breaking the OS, and using this to leverage the web into Microsoft's image.

              If you don't like it get another browser or OS you say, yes you can do that, but MS has still effectively broken a lot of sites so you end up having to go with IE,to get those to work. Yes some will let you through if you pretend to be IE, but why should you need to, and that doesn't help if the site insists on using ActiveX or other proprietary features that don't adhere to web standards.

              This is about making you able to have that choice to use something else, not have it forced upon you.

  17. NightFox

    Head and Shoulders Above The Rest

    Strangely, when I go into M&S, I can only buy M&S shampoo. Disgraceful.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They're changing that.

      Or maybe everything BUT the shampoo.

      Meanwhile you can buy French butter with sea salt crystals in M&S for about £1.80 a block. In Sainsbury's you can get what is obviously the identical product (with a different name on the label) for about £1.50 (a month ago it was about £1.30 I seem to recall).

      Funny how so many people think M&S stuff is higher quality than the other supermarkets (except Waitrose, of course).

  18. Anonymous Coward

    So after all the whining

    Operas installed user base might just increase by single figures. Just because it's available on the ballot screen doesn't mean people will use it. At best, they will install it, try it, realise just how crap it truely is, uninstall it and move to either IE or firefox

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Accomplishes NOTHING

    This accomplishes nothing. Users who want to use something other than IE will do so and don't need this mod to do so. So, what does this browser choice add-in accomplish? It's all smoke and mirrors. In the end, people who prefer IE and/or don't know anything about alternative browsers will continue using IE and people who don't like IE will continue using their browser of choice. This entire debacle will have zero affect on market share. Meanwhile, how many euros have been wasted by the EC on the bullshit litigation driving this? Score one for Microsoft.

  20. Geoff Mackenzie

    @M 6

    MSIE is a bunded, non-removable feature of an OS you pay for. A proportion of what you paid for the bundle is the price of the browser.

    By the way, this whole issue really does bring out the zombie arguments on all sides, doesn't it?

    Dunno why I even care. You won't see a trace of IE on this box, and all I had to do was stop buying the whole bundle.

  21. Tzael

    I don't see product aisles on Windows XP

    Windows is a fucking operating system, not a supermarket!

    I think Opera are confused. They think that because 'operating system' contains their name, makers of OS must include the Opera browser. T***s.

    I'd much rather trust a browser from the company I paid money to for the OS than trust a browser from some ballot screen where it's more akin to playing the lottery - for the vast majority of people will make an uninformed choice.

  22. MJI Silver badge

    People will choose what they know

    That will be IE, Firefox and Chrome taking the bulk of the choices

  23. M 6

    @MJI & Chris iverson

    Now you two are just being pedantic. My point was clear enough.

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