Microsoft and the European Commission (EC) appear to be at odds on how best to tackle the bundling of Internet Explorer (IE) in new Windows installations.
The debate rolls on, and Microsoft seems to gain more opponents with each fresh announcement. Analysts, meanwhile, have been considering what it all means to the end user.
"Obviously Microsoft wants people to continue to default to IE, and by extension to Bing and Windows Media Player, just as Google wants Safari and Firefox users to default to Google.com. It is all about increasing revenues on those search engines," said Mike Davis, senior analyst at Ovum.
"With the decoupling of Windows 7 and IE, Microsoft is actually adding a barrier to the adoption of Firefox, Safari or even Opera, because none of these is intended to ship via physical media on masse, as that is a production cost and the user needs to use a preinstalled browser to access and download them.
"So PC manufacturers will be putting on their specifications 'Comes with IE' or, if they want to reduce their margins (unless they are being subsidised like Apple by Google), 'Please choose your desired browser'. I am pretty sure we are going to see more of the former."
Davis said that the 'ballot screen' option being considered could actually create more controversy and complication in the long run.
"A ballot screen is a nice compromise. But remembering that this is all about advertising revenues that can be raised from internet search, I am sure Microsoft would have justification in arguing that Chrome and Safari should also have a ballot screen enabling Bing to be the default search engine, and Mac OS X to have a ballot screen enabling Windows Media Player to be the default media engine," he explained.
"And if Android becomes the default netbook operating system, is it going to have a ballot box for IE selection?", Davis added.
Rob Bamforth, principal analyst for communication, collaboration and convergence at Quocirca, suggested that it is perhaps businesses that will benefit most from having as many options as possible when selecting an operating system and its browser.
"There are differences between the business community and consumers. While consumers will (in the main) accept what browser they get with the box, business systems are re-cut with the corporate standard install, which may change operating system, let alone browser," he said. "So for this community, and the vendors supplying them with PCs, it matters far less."
Bamforth also suggested that the consumer market may not actually benefit from such complexity.
"Those selling to consumers will want to keep it simple, especially in the netbook domain, so 'installed and ready to go' would probably be their preference, rather than user ballots," he said.
"After all, what use is a ballot when you can't really understand the difference between the options, or what impact your choice will make?"
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