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Tue 28 Jul 2009 12:29 PM

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Microsoft to offer browser choice with Windows

Relents to pressure from the European Commission to offer customers the option of choosing their preferred browser

Microsoft to offer browser choice with Windows
New \ballot screen\ will give customers the option of easily installing and setting rival browsers as default on Windows (Getty Images)

Microsoft has relented to legal pressure from the European Commission and agreed to offer users a choice of Internet Explorer or third party browsers with its Windows OS.

Under terms stated in Microsoft’s proposal to the Commission, customers that buy new Windows-based PCs with Internet Explorer selected as the default browser will now be shown a ‘ballot screen’ that allows them to easily install competing browsers such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox online.

The proposal is presently being investigated by the Commission for “its practical effectiveness in terms of ensuring genuine consumer choice.” If approved, it’s likely to affect Microsoft’s latest OS offering – Windows 7 – as well.

“Under the proposal, Windows 7 would include Internet Explorer, but the proposal recognises the principle that consumers should be given a free and effective choice of web browser, and sets out a means – the ballot screen - by which Microsoft believes that can be achieved,” it reads. “In addition OEMs would be able to install competing web browsers, set those as default and disable Internet Explorer should they so wish.”

The decision by Microsoft to back down could have potentially saved the tech giant from being slapped with another heavy fine similar to the one imposed in 2004. The case, which was triggered by a 1998 complaint by Sun Microsystems, saw Microsoft fined $613 million by the Commission after being found guilty of using its market dominance to increase its share in the server software market.

The Commission then fined Microsoft a further $1.3 billion for not complying with the 2004 decision, which the company has since appealed.

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