Microsoft is continuing to insist it has gone to great lengths in recent months to appease European antitrust watchdogs by saying it will “respect the user choice of the default browser” in Windows.
However, rival browser maker Opera, which brought the original complaint about Microsoft tying its browser to its operating system to the European Commission in 2007, continues to proclaim the software giant hasn’t gone far enough yet.
“Microsoft’s minor technical tweak will not restore browser competition on the desktop,” claimed Opera’s CTO Hakon Wium Lie in an email to ComputerWorld.
The minor tweak referred to is Redmond’s decision to simply allow users to circumnavigate Internet Explorer as their default browser by providing an on/off switch in the company’s list of OS components.
Indeed, the EC, which is the executive arm of the European Union, also struggled to raise anything other than a sceptical eyebrow, after Microsoft said it would release versions of Windows 7 without Internet Explorer in order to comply with Brussels’ competition law.
In June the Commission rejected Microsoft’s pre-emptive strike to give computer vendors the option to buy Windows without a browser as an inadequate and premature effort on Redmond’s part.
At the time the EC said it was still deciding whether Microsoft’s behaviour since 1996 had been anti-competitive, and if so what remedy would be required to improve consumer choice.
"If the Commission were to find that Microsoft had committed an abuse, the Commission has suggested that consumers should be offered a choice of browser, not that Windows should be supplied without a browser at all," said the EC last month.
Unsurprisingly, Microsoft spun out yet another corporate blog post yesterday in which it once again highlighted how hard it has been working to ensure that consumers, and not Microsoft, are crystal clear about browser choice within Windows.
“The goal of the IE setup experience is to put IE users in control of their settings and respect existing defaults,” wrote the IE team yesterday.
“IE will never install, or become the default browser without your explicit consent. However, we heard a lot of feedback from a lot of different people and groups and decided to make the user choice of the default browser even more explicit. This change is part of our ongoing commitment to user choice and control.”
As a result Microsoft has now tweaked the IE 8 first run process to prompt users, who are using a different browser, to tick a box confirming or declining a switch to IE 8 as the user’s default surfing tool.
All of which prompts us to ask the question: why didn't Microsoft have that option in place before now? ®