With Microsoft offering to strip their own browser from Windows 7 in Europe, you’d think antitrust regulators are ready to drop charges and go home. Instead, the software giant and European authorities appear on course for another legal collision after the latter dismissed the offer, claiming it is an insufficient step that won't lead to better competition in the browser market.

Apparently regulators want to avoid repeating a mistake they made in 2004, when Redmond was ordered to sell a version of Windows in Europe without its media player; a measure which received poor reception among consumers and didn’t really improve competition all that much. This time, the commission wants computers to display a window when they are first booted up that would give consumers a choice of browsers.

Opera agrees with that scenario, claiming Microsoft’s move “seems almost purposely designed to make fun of the commission and to make it unnecessarily look bad.” And why wouldn’t they; a browser-less Windows 7 would theoretically give them the chance of striking an exclusive deal with PC makers to include their Opera browser as default with new machines, but in reality the company might have a hard time taking advantage of this new landscape when competing with the deep pockets of Google.

Maybe I’m missing something but it seems to me that asking Microsoft to go out of their way and pre-install rival browsers is a bit much, and perhaps even hypocritical of Opera which claims to have consumer’s best interests in mind. PC vendors are already free to ship other browsers with their machines, so I don’t see how allowing this and agreeing to strip IE8 from Windows constitutes anticompetitive behavior. If such a measure is imposed, what’s to stop other software makers from forcing their way into Windows on claims of unfair competition?