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Microsoft Browser Choice Screen  (Source: Microsoft)
Full roll out will start the week of March 1 in Europe

Microsoft has a long history of accusations that it abuses its dominant position in the browser and operating system markets. These allegations have resulted in several investigations into Microsoft in both America and Europe. One of the more recent investigations happened last year in Europe and was focused on Internet Explorer.

Ultimately, antitrust charges were filed against Microsoft for its practice of bundling IE with Windows in Europe. Microsoft eventually agreed to offer a ballot box that would allow Windows users to choose what browser they want to install on their computer and the charges in Europe were dropped.

Microsoft VP and Deputy General Counsel Dave Heiner has posted to the
Microsoft on the Issues blog new information on the browser choice screen for Europe. Heiner wrote, "Over the next few weeks, Microsoft will begin offering a “Web browser choice screen” to Internet Explorer users in Europe, as required by the European Commission. Internal testing of the choice screen is underway now. We’ll begin a limited roll-out externally next week, and expect that a full scale roll-out will begin around March 1, a couple of weeks ahead of schedule. If you are an Internet Explorer user in Europe, here is what to expect."

Microsoft will begin testing the choice screen next week in the UK, Belgium, and France. Anyone in those three countries that wants to test the choice screen will be able to download the software update via Windows Update. The phased roll out of the choice screen across all of Europe will kick off the week of March 1.

Microsoft reports that the choice screen will be an automatic download through Windows Update for XP, Vista, and Windows 7. Users will either find that the software is downloaded automatically or they may be prompted to download and install the software depending on settings and the version of Windows in use on the PC. 

The choice screen will be shown on all computers running IE as the default browser. Windows 7 users with IE pinned to the taskbar will have the browser automatically unpinned. The choice screen will offer details to users on different browsers and links to download them in a random order.



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EU RULING
By VitalyTheUnknown on 2/19/2010 8:58:10 PM , Rating: 2
For everyone interested in this case and the reasoning behind the EU ruling here are some details from commission's documents.

1/2
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In the SO, the Commission sets out evidence and outlines its preliminary conclusion that Microsoft’s tying of Internet Explorer to the Windows operating system harms competition between web browsers, undermines product innovation and ultimately reduces consumer choice.

The SO is based on the legal and economic principles established in the judgment of the Court of First Instance of 17 September 2007 (case T-201/04), in which the Court of First Instance upheld the Commission's decision of March 2004 (see IP/04/382), finding that Microsoft had abused its dominant position in the PC operating system market by tying Windows Media Player to its Windows PC operating system (see MEMO/07/359).

The evidence gathered during the investigation leads the Commission to believe that the tying of Internet Explorer with Windows, which makes Internet Explorer available on 90% of the world's PCs, distorts competition on the merits between competing web browsers insofar as it provides Internet Explorer with an artificial distribution advantage which other web browsers are unable to match. The Commission is concerned that through the tying, Microsoft shields Internet Explorer from head to head competition with other browsers which is detrimental to the pace of product innovation and to the quality of products which consumers ultimately obtain. In addition, the Commission is concerned that the ubiquity of Internet Explorer creates artificial incentives for content providers and software developers to design websites or software primarily for Internet Explorer which ultimately risks undermining competition and innovation in the provision of services to consumers.

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(2) On 14 January 2009, the European Commission adopted a Statement of Objections against Microsoft, a company incorporated in Washington, USA. The Statement of Objections, which constitutes a preliminary assessment within the meaning of Article 9(1) of Regulation (EC) No 1/2003, outlines the Commission’s preliminary view that Microsoft has infringed EC Treaty rules on abuse of a dominant position (Article 82) by tying its web browser Internet Explorer with its dominant client PC operating system Windows.

(5) According to the preliminary assessment Microsoft is dominant on the market for client PC operating systems. The Statement of Objections outlines the Commission’s preliminary view that Microsoft technically and contractually tied Internet Explorer to Windows at least since 1996 by licensing Windows only with Internet Explorer included. The Commission provisionally considers that this tying conduct amounts to an abuse of a dominant position under Article 82.

(8) The commitments offered are intended to allow for an unbiased choice for both computer manufacturers ("Original Equipment Manufacturers" (OEMs)) and end users between Microsoft's browser and competing browsers. The key elements of the commitments are as follows:

(9) Microsoft will make available a mechanism in Windows Client PC Operating Systems within the European Economic Area (EEA) that enables OEMs and end users to turn Internet Explorer off and on. If Internet Explorer is turned off, the browser frame window and menus will not be accessible to the user or anybody else (nor to software products) in any way.

(10) OEMs will be free to pre-install any web browser(s) of their choice on PCs they ship and set it as default web browser. Microsoft will not circumvent the commitments and shall not retaliate against OEMs for installing competing web browsers or by other means.

(11) Microsoft will distribute a ballot screen software update to users of Windows PC Client Operating Systems within the EEA by means of Windows Update. Users who have Internet Explorer set as their default web browser will be prompted with this ballot screen. The ballot screen will give users an opportunity to choose whether and which competing web browser(s) to install. The ballot screen will display in an unbiased way icons of and basic identifying information on the most widely-used web browsers.

(12) The commitment will be valid for a period of five years from the adoption date of the Article 9 Decision.




RE: EU RULING
By VitalyTheUnknown on 2/19/2010 9:01:37 PM , Rating: 2
2/2
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How will computer manufacturers benefit from Microsoft's commitments?

Computer manufacturers and consumers will now have the possibility to uninstall (“disable”) Internet Explorer so that another web browser can be installed to be the default and only web browser. This had not been possible in previous versions of Windows for over a decade. Microsoft also commits not to retaliate against computer manufacturers which install competing web browsers. Computer manufacturers therefore have a choice of which web browser they want to offer to their customers.

What is the Choice Screen , who will receive it and when?

In order to address the Commission's competition concerns with regard to the tying of Microsoft's web browser Internet Explorer to its Windows PC operating system, Microsoft commits to offer Windows users a choice amongst various web browsers via a Choice Screen. The Choice Screen will be made available through an update to the Windows operating system. All users of Windows XP, Vista and 7 in the European Economic Area on whose PCs Microsoft's web browser is set as the default browser will be offered this update. Users who have enabled automatic updates will receive the Choice Screen automatically. Other users will be asked to confirm if they want this update to be applied to their PCs.

The Choice Screen will contain information on the 12 most widely-used web browsers that run on Windows. It will allow users to easily download and install one or more of these web browsers. The list of browsers included on the Choice Screen will be updated every six months on the basis of several independent sources of market share information.

Currently, the following web browsers qualify for inclusion on the Choice Screen:

Apple Safari, Google Chrome, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, AOL, Maxthon, K-Meleon, Flock, Avant Browser, Sleipnir and Slim Browser. The five most widely used browsers will be prominently displayed and the other seven browsers will be shown when the user scrolls sideways.

Microsoft has until mid-March 2010 to make the Choice Screen update available to users, at which point it will be directly available to Windows 7 users. The roll-out to all users of Windows XP and Vista will be completed within five months from today. The update will remain available for five years.

The Choice Screen update will be displayed on over 100 million PCs in Europe when it is launched in mid-March 2010 and to around 30 million new PC users per year over its five year term. In addition, from mid-March 2010 onwards, anyone can view and use the Choice Screen at www.browserchoice.eu .

Why does the Commission take the view that the commitments address its competition concerns?

Today's decision follows a Statement of Objections sent to Microsoft on 15 January 2009 (see MEMO/09/15 ) in which the Commission expressed its preliminary view that competition was distorted by Microsoft tying Internet Explorer to Windows. This was because it offered Microsoft an artificial distribution advantage not related to the merits of its product on more than 90 per cent of PCs. Further, the Commission's preliminary view was that this tying hindered innovation in the market and created artificial incentives for software developers and content providers to design their products or web sites primarily for Microsoft's web browser.

The commitments approved by today's decision address these concerns.

Computer manufacturers and consumers will now have the possibility to uninstall (“disable”) Microsoft's web browser and to choose the web browser that best serves their needs.

PC users, by means of the Choice Screen, will have an effective and unbiased choice between Microsoft's web browser and competing web browsers.

This should ensure competition on the merits and allow consumers to benefit from technical developments and innovation both on the web browser market and on related markets, such as web-based applications.


RE: EU RULING
By The Raven on 2/22/2010 12:02:47 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Apple Safari, Google Chrome, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, AOL, Maxthon, K-Meleon, Flock, Avant Browser, Sleipnir and Slim Browser. The five most widely used browsers will be prominently displayed and the other seven browsers will be shown when the user scrolls sideways.


This is funny because I know Maxathon and Avant Browser (which I think is great BTW) are built on IE and cannot be installed without it. I don't know about Sleipnir or Slim Browser.

Why doesn't Europe put their money where their mouths are and switch all gov't controlled PCs to Linux. That is where there is the most freedom to choose. But this seems like it is a bunch of politicians trying to look like the good guys ("protecting the consumer") so they can get re-elected. But, we are just as stupid in the US. That's why I can see right through this scheme; I've seen it right here in the States.

This is a crap move by European politicians. I dislike MS as much as the next guy, but this is rubbish. Instead of writing to my congressman to get a law passed to get MS to change, I just won't buy Windows. The EU gov't should do the same. That will get MS to make a change without all the politicians and lawyers involved.

Its either that or just skip to the point where the gov't buys MS and creates a socialist OS. ;-)


RE: EU RULING
By VitalyTheUnknown on 2/22/2010 12:54:58 PM , Rating: 2
"Why doesn't Europe put their money where their mouths are and switch all gov't controlled PCs to Linux"

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Free and Open Source Software.

FOSS activities and initiatives in the European Union institutions (other than DG INFSO)

The impact of FOSS reaches far beyond research and development activities. This page is trying to give an idea of other activities of European Union in this area.

A good staring point to explain EU activities in FOSS is the e-Europe 2005 action plan, which calls for the consideration of open source software solutions in many areas, in particular in the field of public administrations

IDABC

In parallel the IDABC programme on interchange of data between European administrations studied the pooling of open source software resources and production between European administrations. IDABC program will come to an end on 31/12/2009, and will be followed by the new program "Interoperability Solutions for European Public Administrations - ISA", which is expected to continue its work for the widespread acceptance of FOSS in the public administration.

Policy actions and non-research programmes are active in promoting use of open source software. IDABC programme has first conducted a study on open source software for administrations, and has created the Open Source Observatory and Repository (OSOR)

Another important source of information is the ePractice eGovernment and eInclusion factsheets, providing an overall picture of the situation and progress of eGovernment and eInclusion, with a strong focus on Open Source.

A consultation meeting on European perspectives for open source software provided the initial input on the main opportunities for open source software in Europe in the coming years.

An important accomplishment of IDABC is the creation of a FOSS license specifically adapted for European law (EUPL) and compatible with some other FOSS licenses. Its purpose is to encourage public administrations to embrace the FOSS model in a framework of legal certainty.
IDABC and ISA are managed by Directorate-General DIGIT of the European Commission

DG Competition (COMP) activity in ICT industry has particularly focused on anti-competitive behavior and state aid monitoring. DG Competition accepts state aid "that is beneficial to consumers, by providing new research grants and encouraging the development of new products, such as open source".

DG Informatics (DIGIT) provides most ICT systems used internally in European Commissions and other European Institutions. It is not involved in policy making, but it uses and deploys open source components for internal use when this is possible

DG Internal Market and Services (MARKT) is involved in public procurement and e-commerce policies, as well as in patenting; all these aspect have direct or indirect connections with FOSS

Joint Research Centre (JRC)

The Joint Research Centre of the European Commission has a number of free / open source software projects; one very significant example is the OPTIMA - Open Source Text Information Mining and Analysis.


RE: EU RULING
By The Raven on 2/22/2010 5:03:08 PM , Rating: 2
I subscribe to the announce feed of OOo and watch adoption of Ubuntu (and linux generally) closely. I know that odf is the official format of NATO (which includes the US by the way).
But I have yet to hear that the EU is not using Windows.

I know there are initiatives to switch from windows, and that is a reason why I think the need for this nonsense of browser choice is nonexistant.

Also, please stop filling the screen with such verbose posts. Use links please. Thank you.


"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates

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