Opera: Microsoft's 'minor tweak' of Windows 7 not enough

Rival says IE8's off-switch won't restore competition

Opera Software, the Norwegian browser maker that sparked an antitrust investigation into Microsoft business practices in Europe, remains dissatisfied with its rival's move to dump IE8 from Windows 7.

Last week, Microsoft shared a bit of technical information about how it is stripping IE8 from Windows 7 to create the "E" editions for the European Union market.

"The only functional difference is that the Internet Explorer 8 component is not available," said Arik Cohen, a Microsoft program manager in a Q&A on the company's Windows blog. "This is the same component that your users can turn off in the 'Turn Windows features on and off' control panel in the Windows 7 RC build."

All other parts of IE will remain in the E editions, said Cohen, "since they are part of the Windows core."

The "Turn Windows features on and off" feature refers to the kill switch option Microsoft added to Windows 7 in March. Then, Microsoft managers confirmed that the new operating system would offer user settings for disabling, but not deleting, a host of bundled applications, including IE8. "If a feature is deselected, it is not available for use," said Jack Mayo, a program manager on the Windows team. "This means the files (binaries and data) are not loaded by the operating system and not available to users on the computer."

Files are not actually deleted from the PC, however, so users can later reactivate the disabled applications, said Mayo.

Flipping a switch to simply make IE8 unavailable is not enough for Opera, the browser builder that complained to EU regulators in late 2007. Its complaint led the government's antitrust agency to charge Microsoft in January with shielding IE from competition.

"Microsoft's minor technical tweak will not restore browser competition on the desktop," said Hakon Wium Lie, Opera's chief technology officer, in an e-mail today.

Opera has previously expressed dissatisfaction with Microsoft's decision to dump IE8 from Windows 7. In June, when Microsoft announced the E editions, Lie was skeptical, even though it was unclear at the time exactly what part of the browser would be removed. "The rendering engine will remain," Lie argued then. "Who knows what Windows Update would do? You could wake up in the morning and see all of IE8 there again." Microsoft may have felt forced to leave parts of IE within Windows, since some of the OS's functionality, particularly Windows Update, likely depends on those components.

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