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

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

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A month ago, Microsoft acknowledged that its unilateral move might not satisfy critics, including EU officials. "Our decision to only offer IE separately from Windows 7 in Europe cannot, of course, preclude the possibility of alternative approaches emerging through Commission processes," Dave Heiner, Microsoft's deputy counsel, said on June 11.

While the EU has not yet ruled -- Microsoft dropped an oral hearing slated for early June because of scheduling conflicts -- but Lie said that as far as Opera is concerned, turning off IE but leaving bits and pieces in Windows 7 isn't enough. "At Opera, we'd like to give users access to more browsers, not fewer," he said.

Opera wants the EU to order Microsoft to insert a ballot screen into Windows; the screen would offer users several browser choices that would then either be activated -- if all were pre-installed on the machine -- or downloaded and installed.

Regulators also have hinted that the ballot screen is its preferred solution. "A potential remedy ... and which would not require Microsoft to provide Windows to end-users without a browser, would be to allow consumers to choose from different web browsers presented to them through a 'ballot screen' in Windows," the European Commission said in a June 12 statement.

Nor has Microsoft publicly disclosed what, if any, incentives it's held out to European computer makers to continue to install IE8 on new PCs. Last month, Mozilla said that that was critical to figuring out whether Windows 7E would level the playing field. "It's impossible to evaluate what [Microsoft's proposal] means unless and until Microsoft describes -- completely and with specificity -- all the incentives and disincentives applicable to Windows OEMs," said John Lilly, Mozilla's CEO. "Without this, it's impossible to tell if Microsoft is giving something with one hand and taking it away with the other."

Microsoft's Cohen also claimed that the "vast majority" of applications work on Windows 7 E, including programs that use Windows' embedded browser components, including Trident, IE's layout engine.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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