How Does Unbundling IE in the EU Solve the Problem?

Microsoft has revealed its plan for unbundling IE from Windows 7 in the Europe Union (EU). In IT Blogwatch, Richi Jennings watches bloggers react and wonder if Microsoft isn't just giving European Commission (EC) regulators the finger.

Does anyone seriously think this idea is actually going to resolve the original complaint? Anyone? Bueller?

Not to mention stuff for people who love charts...

Emil Protalinski summarizes the plan:

Microsoft has announced that it will ship a special version of Vista's successor in Europe, titled Windows 7 E, without Internet Explorer 8. The browser-less version, a reaction to an antitrust investigation by the EU into whether Microsoft is abusing its dominant position with Windows and Internet Explorer, will be distributed in all member nations.

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This means that none of the versions of Windows 7 sold in Europe will include a Microsoft's browser. ... OEMs will have the option to add the browser back in, ship another browser, or ship multiple browsers. ... Consumers who purchase retail copies will not have a browser that they can use to download a browser. Therefore, Microsoft will offer IE8 via CD, FTP, and retail channels.

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Gavin Clarke boggles:

Microsoft's tactic in these matters is to ship product before the legal machinery makes its decision, making the situation a fait accompli. Indeed, Microsoft's already informed OEMs of its plans just as they start preparing for Windows 7's October 22 launch. But product segmentation on Windows 7 is likely to do little to address rivals' real concerns. MORE

Pamela Jones groks it:

My first reaction was, I guess that means you actually can remove the browser and Windows will still run, despite what Microsoft told the court in the US. My second was, if OEMs can choose to install IE, why wouldn't Microsoft just sit on them in various subtle ways to make sure it's in their best interests to always "choose" to install IE?
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If, for example, Windows 7 E came with all the major browsers ready to connect to a download, at the customer's choice, as in even all of the above, why wouldn't that work? But if IE is easy to install and nothing else is, then what? And if it's left up to Microsoft-dependent OEMs to choose, then what? And what skeptics will be wondering is this: Is Microsoft trying to replicate the failure of the Window N remedy? MORE

Todd Bishop talked to Opera's CTO:

"I don't think what they have announced today is going to get them off the hook." [said] Hakon Wium Lie ... "I don't think this is going to correct all of what we think is illegal behavior -- the tying over the years. ... I don't think this is going to restore competition. I think restoring competition is one of the goals of the European Commission. So I don't think this is the end of the case."
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In the court of public opinion, one challenge for Opera is that the browser market has become more competitive already, without government intervention. Microsoft's worldwide market share was 65.5 percent in May ... down from more than 73 percent a year ago. MORE

Microsoft's Dave Heiner chooses his words carefully:

We’re committed to making Windows 7 available in Europe at the same time that it launches in the rest of the world. ... 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. ... Computer manufacturers and users will be free to install Internet Explorer on Windows 7, or not, as they prefer.
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Other alternatives have been raised in the Commission proceedings, including possible inclusion in Windows 7 of alternative browsers or a “ballot screen” that would prompt users to choose from a specific set of Web browsers. Important details of these approaches would need to be worked out in coordination with the Commission, since they would have a significant impact on computer manufacturers and Web browser vendors, whose interests may differ. MORE

Sean Ridgeley is ever the pragmatist:

From here, manufacturers will have the option to put the browser back in, install another, or install multiple browsers. ... The tricky part is for manufacturers who choose to ship the OS without a browser -- for customers who purchase a copy as such at retail, it's not exactly simple to find a browser if you're browser-less, and the average user is most likely not going to know it's even possible.

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If sense prevails, though, manufacturers will simply offer a browser (any browser) with the OS -- we're pretty sure most people would rather even IE than any hassle, to start with.

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