The European Commission's discontent with what it perceived as monopolistic practices from Microsoft has resulted in some hefty fines over the years, but it looks like the two have finally settled their differences over the choice of web browsers in Windows. In a statement issued today, European Commissioner for Competition Neelie Kroes said that for the first time in over a decade, Internet users in Europe will have an effective and unbiased choice between Microsoft's Internet Explorer and competing software.

She is of course referring to the infamous browser ballot screen from which Windows users will decide what browser to install on their system. In all, there will be as many as 12 options presented in random order. Users can pick and download one, several of them or stick with Internet Explorer. The deal also means computer manufacturers will now be able to ship PCs in Europe that do not come pre-installed with IE.

The browser ballot will go into effect in March 2010 and the "Choice Screen update" will be available for five years. This should allow Microsoft to avoid another costly legal battle, though the company was warned it can still be fined up to 10 percent of yearly global turnover without regulators "having to prove any violation of EU antitrust rules" if it doesn't stick to the agreement.