EU warms to Microsoft's browser ballot screen idea

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Microsoft is one step closer to finally reaching an agreement with the European Commission over its practice of bundling Internet Explorer with Windows. Back in July, the software giant offered to include a ballot screen which would show users in Europe a choice of possible browsers during the Windows 7 installation process. Now after several months of back and forth discussions about how that screen should look and operate, amid skepticism from competitors, the European Commission looks ready to settle the case.


The main changes since Microsoft's original proposals in July were the inclusion of a little introduction to each browser, "Tell Me More" buttons underneath each browser choice and the ability for the Commission to review the screen in future to ensure it is still fulfilling its competitive purpose. Browsers will be easily downloaded from the ballot screen, without favoring any particular option, presenting them in alphabetical order.

The new version of the ballot screen would be offered to all European users of current versions of Windows -- meaning XP, Vista, and now Windows 7 -- for a five-year period. Under the revised proposal, PC makers will also be able to install competing browsers, set any of them as default and even disable Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Obviously, users will retain the ability to turn any browser on or off as they choose.

European regulators said they would open up the new proposal for public comment, starting October 9, before giving Microsoft the go-ahead. Interested parties will have one month to file comments.

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