Microsoft will strip Internet Explorer from Windows 7 releases in Europe, in a bid to assuage anti-trust concerns.
The European Commission will shortly rule on an antitrust charges brought against Microsoft in January, alleging that bundling IE with versions of Windows constitutes an abuse of its dominant market position.
“Given the pending legal proceeding, we’ve decided that instead of including Internet Explorer in Windows 7 in Europe, we will offer it separately and on an easy-to-install basis to both computer manufacturers and users,” Microsoft VP Dave Heiner said in a blog post.
The decision represents a reversal of Microsoft's previous position that the browser is an integral part of Windows.
This will be the only difference between the European and non-European versions of Windows, Heiner said.
“Computer manufacturers will be able to add any browser they want to their Windows 7 machines, including Internet Explorer.”
But Heiner said the decision does not preclude other the possibility that the EC will push for other approaches.
“Alternatives have been raised in the commission proceedings, including possible inclusion in Windows 7 of alternative browsers or a ‘ballot screen’ that would prompt users to choose from a specific set of web browsers,” he said.
“Rather than more choice, Microsoft seems to have chosen to provide less.” the commission said in a statement.
Windows 7 will launch on October 22.
The commission hit Microsoft with a $655 million anti-trust fine in March, and Intel with a record $1.4 billion penalty in may.