Microsoft tweaks browser ballot as antitrust deal nears

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In response to ongoing complaints from rival browser makers, including Opera and Google, Microsoft has made yet another round of changes to the proposed ballot screen for European editions of Windows 7. Specifically rather than presenting browsers in alphabetical order when users first try to surf the web, which would have placed Apple's Safari as the first option, the software maker has agreed to randomize this list.

Also, to avoid influencing user choice, the browser ballot might be developed as a standalone application, instead of an HTML page that runs in Internet Explorer. The revised proposal has reportedly been submitted to the EU and could be approved as early as next week, on December 15, with the browser ballot expected to be rolled soon afterwards into a Windows Update for existing Windows installations in Europe.

Besides putting an end to rival complaints, which were already getting ridiculous and frankly didn't seem to have the best interests of users in mind, the decision would allow Microsoft to avoid another hefty penalty after being fined upwards of $1.6 billion for violations of European antitrust rules in 2008.

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