Microsoft under the gun (again) for not properly giving users choice of browser in Windows

A few years ago Microsoft was under investigation by European Union’s antitrust regulators for bundling Internet Explorer with Windows. According to the regulators, bundling Internet Explorer with Windows made it harder for other browsers to gain traction in Windows and thus hurt competition. In 2009 Microsoft came to a settlement with the EU that all new computers in the EU would ship with a ‘browser choice’ feature that allowed users to pick a browser from a list of all major browsers (ordered randomly) when first setting up Windows, thus making it equally likely for a user to select Internet Explorer as, say, Firefox or Chrome. Flash forward to 2012 and the EU is once again investigating Microsoft, for the same reasons; the EU is looking into allegations that since February 2011 Windows 7 is not prompting users with the browser selection screen.

EU’s Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia is quoted as declaring Microsoft will face sanctions if the reports are confirmed:

“We take compliance with our decisions very seriously. And I trusted the company’s reports were accurate. But it seems that was not the case, so we have immediately taken action. If infringements are confirmed, Microsoft should expect sanctions.”

According to ZDNet, Microsoft could face a fine of up to 10% of its global annual revenue, a sum that comes out to about $7 billion.

Microsoft has publicly confirmed EU’s suspicions of no browser selection screen on Windows 7 Service Pack 1 PCs, blaming a “a technical error” and has promised to take “immediate” steps to remedy the issue:

“Due to a technical error, we missed delivering the BCS (browser choice screen) software to PCs that came with the service pack 1 update to Windows 7. While we have taken immediate steps to remedy this problem, we deeply regret that this error occurred and we apologize for it.”

Well since it was a technical error not detected for fifteen months that caused this… then I suppose it is okay. Amirite? We have a comments section for you to disagree with me.

[via Engadget, ZDNet, Reuters | Image credit: fsse8info]

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  • @Kelltic: With Wine you can run a lot of common programs. It might not run the exact program, but there are countless amounts of similar software. The command line is significantly better than Windows. If you work with plain text files then Linux is much more convenient.

    Anyway, Linux is too generic. There are so many different flavors that aren’t compatible with each other you can’t really generalize everything under the category Linux.

  • Kelltic

    Microsoft has become more and more dictatorial, taking away more and more options as the OS, uh, umm, “progresses”. For that, I’m furious at them. But this crap about them having to offer other browser options is idiocy. WHY should they have to do that. I cannot think of one good reason.

    Linux? Puh-leeeeze! When it can run all my Windows software I will download it and send them a $200 gift.

  • What about Macs, Linux computers, tablets, and smartphones? All of them have operating systems capable of supporting multiple browsers, but I’ve never heard of them being required to give users the option.

    If Windows, a software company, should be required to include software from third parties, why aren’t these other companies being forced to as well?

    The real solution would be require computer manufacturers to provide options of other operating systems besides Windows or the option to buy a computer without any software pre-installed.

  • Robert

    The whole browser war idea is ridiculous. Back in the 90’s it was IE vs Netscape, and it didn’t matter then. Now today I can get hundreds of different browsers, although there are really only 3 I’d touch, and two installed on my PC. No matter what, IE must be installed because it is part of the OS. It works. It works well. It renders colors correctly. While my personal favorite is Chrome, it does not render all color profiles correctly, so I must do photo browsing with IE.

    The point is, those who install other browsers are (probably) inherently qualified to do so, while those that can’t figure it out really NEED to stay in the safe zone with IE.

  • Kraal

    In that case Meldasue, I don’t think the browser choice thing is a good idea at all. If a user is too scared to install a browser on their own, then I sure as heck won’t give them a choice as to which one they want. Internet Explorer has made great improvements, and it is no longer a horrible browser. So it may not be the best browser, but it’s good enough for users who are afraid to download anything on their own.

  • Don
  • Don

    It is about time to stop this bull$hit. If I go and buy a Ford, I cannot sue Ford because I want a Chevy engine in it. Why is the browser war any different? I don’t see developers trying to sue because there isn’t a choice of calculators or wordpads.

    I’m not defending any company here but if you are too stupid that you cannot install the browser of your choice, then you don’t need to use a computer. How anyone let this get to this point boggles my mind. MS will shove, no start buttons and ribbons down our throats but won’t stand up to the EU?

    This crap of being unfair to the other browser developers is a joke! Here is an idea, maybe these other browser developers design their own OS and stop whining.

  • Sherrie

    What of Apple’s Safari? Is one given a choice when one buys a Mac and thus been reprimanded?

  • meldasue

    @IVAN IVANOV: I’m an MS fangurl, but I do see the issue here. A lot of users will just use whatever browser comes with the system – they might not even know they have a choice, or might be scared to install anything different in case it doesn’t work.

  • Peter

    @Kraal: That is my opinion too. Windows will not stop running if one uses FF or any other browser available. The users have got a choice and many make use of it.
    When trying Win8 Customer preview (and later the RC) no question about IE or mediaplayer/center arose (unfortunately the tiled ugly desktop installed without any asking too).
    We’ll see what the EU-commision will do. But – just to repat it – one has got the choice.

  • Peter

    @IVAN IVANOV: $ 7*10^9 ?? That is nearly nothing. We are in need of € 10^12-10^13 in the eurozone.

  • Kraal

    I don’t want the OS asking me what browser I want installed… If I want a browser, I’ll get on IE and download another one. Or use a portable browser I probably have sitting on a flashdrive.

    Bundling IE with windows hurts competition? IF that’s what hurts your browser, then your browser probably deserves it. Both Windows and IE are microsoft things, why on earth would IE not be bundled into the OS?

  • hatman

    Send some Microsoft executives to Prison!

  • sl0j0n

    Hello, “ED”.
    Nope, sorry, notachance, bud.
    Ever since Win98SE, Billy(thekid) Gates and company have sold their collective souls to the devil,
    to get I.E. “integrated” into windoz.
    Nowadays, I.E. is actually Windows Explorer, with a mask it puts on whenever you click the browser shrtct.
    You can no more “uninstall” I.E. than you can Windows Explorer.
    But its a nice thought, tho.

    Have a GREAT day, neighbor!

  • Ed

    Wait, does this mean we will be able to uninstall IE without messing up the internet connection?

  • If thats not number 1 on their “check that this works” check list then they only have themselves to blame even if it was a legitimate mistake.

    It could have been done intentionally but one should never discount the power of stupidity…


    @Art Pete:

    Exactly! European Union’s antitrust regulators were waiting for a certain time, until SP1 came, and then- more time… If they were noticed Microsoft early- probably the problem could have been fixed long time ago!


    “However, I find it extremely hard to believe such an obvious ‘glitch’ was left undetected for over a year.”

    Ashraf- it is not “extremely hard to believe”, it is impossible to believe!

    Microsoft are playing like me on the road- yeah- the speed limit is 60 miles per hour, but if I drive with 64 (for example)- probably the cops will “close their eyes” . Probably, but not always… That’s why I said- the Europeans are going a bit further…
    And speaking of “bit”- if for Microsoft A bit mean a contraction of binary digit (0 or 1), for European Union’s antitrust regulators 1 bit= $7 billion! Guys- I could not count the numbers- 7,000,000,000!
    I have an offer to the Europeans- if the European antitrust regulators can take this money from Microsoft- please- give them to the “injured” people in EU, who cannot install a simple browser in MS Windows… :) :) :) Maybe after that they will get a bit more educated to learn how to click “Next”, “Next”, “Next”…

  • Art Pete

    @Ashraf: I think you are putting the shoe on the wrong foot. MS$ was ordered to place a choice in the OS, and they thought that they had. It really falls on the EU to enforce their orders or sanctions, not MS$. So how did the EU let this go unnoticed for over a year. If they had been doing their job, the problem could have been fixed quickly!
    So now they want $7 billion from Microsoft for their screw-up? That’s adding insult to injury.

  • Ashraf

    @IVAN IVANOV: Microsft is not a private company. It is very much public.

    That said, Ive said it before and Ill say it again: I dont agree with EU going after Microsoft for.bundling IE in Windows. However, I find it extremely hard to believe such an obvious ‘glitch’ was left undetected for over a year. Either Microsofts legal department is extremely incompetant (they should be monitoring these things) or Microsoft decided to risk not issuing a fix earlier.

  • mukhi

    i like the new IE but i have got more familiar with google chrome, and i like it. i only use IE if a particular website can’t be opened well by FF or chrome.


    Well- Microsoft is a private company, creating just one operation system. Paid operation system.
    As far as I know- they do not force anybody to use their system.
    I think the Europeans are going a bit further.
    If somebody does not like MS Windows- he has a chose. Linux. Just use Linux (which is free)- and you will be able to use another browser.
    Plus- people- come on- how stupid you have to be, so you could not install any browser in Windows?
    Is that so hard?
    P.S. I am European, leaving in USA, and I do not disrespect the Europeans, Africans, or any other people.
    But- if Europe is in recession- I believe they have to discover another way to “make” $7 billion!
    As a beginning- they can start working on some different operating system. If their system is better the MS Windows- OK! If not- just do not mess with the private software developers, like Microsoft!

  • chuck

    @Mike: Mike-A “glitch”,really? Wake up and smell the coffee dude.I’d bet every last penny I have this was intentional.I also wouldn’t be surprised to find someone from the EU has a big fat new bank account in the Caymans.

  • Dan

    @ Mike : I agree, glitches do happen..and often..but you would think these guys would have some sort of quality control in place that was worth a damn, that spotted something as obvious as this, instead of letting it ride up until now..until they are challenged about it.

    These are supposed to be smart people we are talking about could they has NOT known about this in all this time?

    But this is just my opinion..

  • Mike

    One thing I’ve leaned in life and the computing world: glitches sometimes just happen . . . . Whether that is the case here, who knows.

  • Zapped Sparky

    Internet explorer is brilliant. For downloading Firefox :) On a serious note it is questionable as to how it wasn’t picked up on earlier. I wonder what they’ll classify the update as?

  • Bruce

    It used to be that clicking a link in an Excel spreadsheet opened up the default browser. But Microsoft slipped one in a while ago, and now it’s always IE regardless of the browser setting on the computer.

  • chuck

    Mistake? Yeah,right.The EU was clearly asleep at the wheel,and good old M$ wanted to see if they could jam this BS browser down the throats of the uneducated once again, as they have for so many years gone by.
    The shameless greed at Redmond.Although,in fairness,an upgrade to Win8 for 40 bucks makes up for a lot.