Europe to get Windows 7 with E, but without IE

Redmond (WA) – Microsoft confirmed an earlier report by Cnet and said that it will be shipping Windows 7 in Europe without Internet Explorer. OEMs will have an option to install the browser on their computers free of charge and consumers will also have “easy” access to the browser, if they want to use the software.

According to Microsoft, the European version of Windows 7 will be offered in 32-bit and 64-bit versions and can be identified by the letter “E” that follows the product name. Microsoft said that it was somewhat forced to remove the browser from Windows 7 since the company “must comply” with European antitrust law.

“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’s Dave Heiner wrote in a blog post.  “This means that computer manufacturers and users will be free to install Internet Explorer on Windows 7, or not, as they prefer. Of course, they will also be free, as they are today, to install other Web browsers.”

Microsoft said that the E-versions “will include all the features and functionality of Windows 7 in the rest of the world, other than browsing with Internet Explorer.” If consumers want to install the browser, theer are ways to do so: “Computer manufacturers will be able to add any browser they want to their Windows 7 machines, including Internet Explorer, so European consumers who purchase new PCs will be able to access the Internet without any problem,” Heiner wrote. “Consumers will also be able to add any Web browser to their PCs, to supplement or replace the browsers preinstalled by their computer manufacturer.”

The European Commission was not entirely happy with Microsoft’s decision and said that it had suggested to Microsoft to ship Windows 7 with a choice of browsers, rather than removing its browser. However, the EC believes that the negative impact of not shipping a browser at all will be limited since PC OEMs most likely will include a browser – and 95% of consumers get their Windows through the purchase of a new PC, the EC said.

Heiner briefly addressed the idea of alternative browsers: “Other 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.  Important details of these approaches would need to be worked out in coordination with the Commission, since they would have a significant impact on computer manufacturers and Web browser vendors, whose interests may differ. Given the complexity and competing interests, we don’t believe it would be best for us to adopt such an approach unilaterally,” he wrote.