Microsoft's IE-Free Windows 7 Tries to Appease EU

Microsoft plans to release a European version of Windows 7 without Internet Explorer 8, called Windows 7 E, to appease EU regulators who say that inclusion of the browser could violate antitrust laws.

Microsoft plans to release a European version of its upcoming Windows 7 without Internet Explorer 8, in a bid to appease European Union regulators on the lookout for any semblance of an antitrust violation.

Microsoft plans on offering the same versions of Windows 7 to both Europe and the United States when the operating system launches on Oct. 22. The European version will feature an "E" at the end of the product name-i.e., "Windows 7 Home Premium E"-and include all the features of Windows 7 minus Internet Explorer.

However, manufacturers installing Windows 7 on their customers' machines will be able to include Internet Explorer as part of the package, meaning that European end users could never notice the difference. The key point, according to Microsoft, is choice.

"Computer manufacturers will be able to add any browser they want to their Windows 7 machines, including Internet Explorer, so European customers who purchase new PCs will be able to access the Internet without any problem," Dave Heiner, vice president and deputy general counsel for Microsoft, wrote on the Microsoft On The Issues blog on June 11. "Consumers will be able to add any Web browser to their PCs, to supplement or replace the browsers preinstalled by their computer manufacturer."

Microsoft reportedly plans on offering Internet Explorer 8 on a CD-ROM for users, aiming to make a workaround as simple as possible. As pointed out by multiple sources online, however, users looking to upgrade to Windows 7 E from Vista could encounter an issue insofar as switching operating systems could leave them browserless, as Internet Explorer present on Vista would be eradicated in the course of the changeover.

However, Microsoft seems spooked enough by the possibility of EU regulation to warrant the move. The company will not be offering a version of Windows 7 with IE bundled in the EU.

Microsoft's issues with the European Union over antitrust extend far back in time, with both entities arguing over the software company's degrees of compliance with regulations.