Windows 7 allows IE uninstall

In Thursday's IT Blogwatch, Richi Jennings watches Microsoft allow users and OEMs to actually remove IE -- sop to Europe or misdirecting canard? Not to mention 3D street art...

Gregg Keizer reports:

Windows 7 screenshot
A just-leaked build of Windows 7 lets users remove Internet Explorer (IE), the first time that Microsoft Corp. has offered the option since it integrated the browser with Windows in 1997 ... might have been prompted by recent charges by the European Union that Microsoft has stifled browser competition by bundling IE with its operating system.

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The 7048 build of Windows 7 -- a version that has not been released to the public but is available as a pirated copy on file-sharing sites -- includes [the] option ... Windows 7 Build 7048 first began appearing on ... BitTorrent tracking sites, on Monday. Traffic has been substantial since then, with Mininova reporting more than 21,000 downloads.
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Todd Bishop adds:

Microsoft, which has historically contended that Internet Explorer is an integral part of Windows, has quietly given users the ability to turn the browser off in a test build of Windows 7 ... could have implications for the simmering antitrust dispute in Europe over the company's continued bundling of the browser with the dominant operating system.

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However, it's not clear if the off switch will make its way into the final version of Windows 7, expected to be released later this year.
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Big up Bryant Zadegan and Chris Holmes:

Thanks exclusively and entirely to efforts between Chris Holmes and me, we discovered that Internet Explorer 8 can be removed from at least Windows 7 build 7048, which is a good sign for regulatory overlords in the EU and in the States. Given that this change doesn’t exist in Beta 1, the odds that this change will persist through to RC are quite high

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this actually takes two reboots and a configuration step to complete, so there’s definitely something going on behind the scenes (likely a remapping of where IE-related functions can be found for other elements in Windows so that Windows doesn’t complain about IE’s nonexistence).
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Paul Thurrott wonders about the permanence of the change:

Microsoft could simply be testing the removal functionality in interim Windows 7 pre-release builds in order to make sure it's ready in the future if the EU were to rule against it. Such functionality might only find its way into versions of Windows 7 that are sold in Europe, for example.

While we're speculating, it's worth wondering about Microsoft's previous claims that IE was so deeply integrated into Windows that removing it would render the OS unusable. In fact, Microsoft executives provided a demonstration of this non-working Windows version during the US antitrust trial several years ago. Of course, a lot has changed since then. Beginning with Windows Vista, Microsoft rearchitected its core desktop OS to be more componentized.
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Samuel Axon drops a fly in the ointment:

This is not exactly what the EU is asking for. In the current case, Microsoft may have to do more than just make its browser removable; it might have to provide alternative browsers with its operating system as well..
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And color chromas unhappy:

How about the option to remove the network stack or the window manager? The file manager? MS has a monopoly on file managers because Win comes with one preinstalled! To me, it's all part of the product they're selling, so I shouldn't complain if it comes with whatever feature they sold to me(bugs aside).

Obligatory car analogy: I think Ford should stop selling cars with alternators. Other parts of the car rely on having electricity to run, but what if I don't like the one they sold to me in my car?
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But William A. Spitzak disagrees:

It seems the astroturfers are going crazy trying to confuse the issue. This has nothing to do with end users. The important thing the EU is trying to get is for OEM's to have the ability to replace IE with (or add to IE) Firefox or some other browser.

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An OEM (like Dell) must be able to load the computer with arbitrary programs, some of which compete with Microsoft's world domination plans, without Microsoft being able to punish them by changing the terms of their OEM contract. This has nothing to do with what users do with their machine after they get it home.
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And finally...

Previously in IT Blogwatch:

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Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/adviser/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and spam. A 23 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him on Twitter, pretend to be Richi's friend on Facebook, or just use boring old email: blogwatch@richi.co.uk.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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