In a nod to European regulators, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) plans to offer a version of its new Windows 7 operating system without Internet Explorer in Europe. It will be up to PC makers to then decide whether to install Internet Explorer — or another browser — on the computers they sell. CNET speculates that Microsoft’s move might now open the door for rival browser-makers, notably Google (NSDQ: GOOG), to pay PC makers to have their browsers pre-installed on PCs, much like search companies currently do to have their search engines made the default. It could therefore boost the share of rival browsers, which already have been on the upswing.
In January, the European Commission said its preliminary view was that Microsoft had stifled competition in the browser market by packaging Internet Explorer and Windows together. The Commission reportedly wants Microsoft to let users choose a specific browser when they buy a new PC. While Microsoft’s decision to offer Windows 7 without Internet Explorer might stave off that action, it won’t shelter the company from a “significant fine” that the EU is expected to order Microsoft to pay. A decision is expected later this summer.
Microsoft was ordered earlier this decade by the EU to offer a version of Windows without Windows Media Player in Europe. However, it’s been famously unpopular, with only a few thousand copies shipping a year and most consumers opting for the version with Windows Media Player.