Thousands of users - including numerous HEXUS.community members - have already pre-ordered a copy of Microsoft's browser-less Windows 7 E operating system, but the software giant has confirmed that it is hoping to provide European users with a fully-functional release in the near future.
In order to comply with EU law, Microsoft is currently offering European users with versions of Windows 7 stripped of a built-in web browser - namely its own Internet Explorer. However, that somewhat surprising move was always seen as an interim measure, resulting in complications that led to Microsoft offering full Windows 7 E editions at upgrade prices.
Looking ahead, the Redmond-based outfit wants to introduce its two-tier pricing, including both upgrade and full editions, to the European market, and it'll consequently need to ship a version of Windows that offers all the functionality that's available to the rest of the world.
How might it do it? By putting Internet Explorer back in, but with a twist. In a statement issued by general counsel and senior vice president Brad Smith, Microsoft has proposed that it could ship Windows 7 with Internet Explorer installed as the default browser, and that it could display a ballot screen from which users could choose to install an alternative third-party browser.
With Windows 7 providing the option for Internet Explorer to be uninstalled, it seems a logical solution, and we'd have preferred to have seen this proposal before the Windows 7 E editions were announced. How soon might we see fully-functional copies of Windows 7 in Europe? Well, that all depends on how the European Commission responds to Microsoft's suggestion, but we do know that Microsoft doesn't plan to continue offering its upgrade prices for Windows 7 E editions in 2010. It's fair to assume, then, that pending EU approval, we may see a fully-functional Windows 7 shipping to Europe next year.
Microsoft's statement in full:
As the European Commission has just announced in a statement, Microsoft has made a new proposal in an effort to address competition law issues related to Internet Explorer and interoperability.
Under our new proposal, among other things, European consumers who buy a new Windows PC with Internet Explorer set as their default browser would be shown a ‘ballot screen’ from which they could, if they wished, easily install competing browsers from the Web. If this proposal is ultimately accepted, Microsoft will ship Windows in Europe with the full functionality available in the rest of the world. As requested by the Commission, we will be publishing our proposal in full here on our website as soon as possible.
While the Commission solicits public comment and considers this proposal, we are committed to ensuring that we are in full compliance with European law and our obligations under the 2007 Court of First Instance ruling.
As we said June 11th, we currently are providing PC manufacturers in Europe with E versions of Windows 7, which we believe are fully compliant with European law. PCs manufacturers building machines for the European market will continue to be required to ship E versions of Windows 7 until such time that the Commission fully reviews our proposals and determines whether they satisfy our obligations under European law. If the Commission approves this new proposal, Microsoft will begin work at that time to begin implementation of it with PC manufacturers.
As the European Commission announced, Microsoft’s proposal also includes a public undertaking designed to promote interoperability between third party products and a number of Microsoft products, including Windows, Windows Server, Office, Exchange, and SharePoint.
Like the Internet Explorer proposal, the interoperability measures we are offering involve significant change by Microsoft. They build on the Interoperability Principles announced by Microsoft in February 2008, which were also based on extensive discussions with the Commission, and they include new steps including enforceable warranty commitments.
We believe that if ultimately accepted, this proposal will fully address the European competition law issues relating to the inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows and interoperability with our high-volume products. This would mark a big step forward in addressing a decade of legal issues and would be good news for European consumers and our partners in the industry.