Microsoft is offering European manufacturers the option to sell Windows 7 systems without Internet Explorer (IE).
The firm is acting ahead of a legal judgement expected soon from the European Commission (EC), according to a blog post by Dave Heiner, vice president and deputy general counsel at Microsoft.
Windows 7 is expected to start shipping on 22 October, but the EC has said that Microsoft's bundling of IE with Windows may violate European competition law.
"Given the pending legal proceeding, we have decided that, instead of including IE in Windows 7 in Europe, we will offer it separately and on an easy-to-install basis to both computer manufacturers and users," wrote Heiner.
"This means that computer manufacturers and users will be free to install IE on Windows 7, or not, as they prefer. Of course, they will also be free, as they are today, to install other web browsers."
Microsoft explained that an 'E' version of Windows 7 will be sold including IE, along with a 'non E' version that lets the computer manufacturer decide which browser to install. Heiner said that this would still provide a browser out of the box, but that the choice will be down to the manufacturer.
"In order to meet the [22 October] release date, we needed to start telling computer manufacturers this week exactly what to expect in Windows 7, so they can begin all of the engineering and operational work necessary to have PCs available in stores in October. We began that process earlier this week," added Heiner.
Microsoft also hinted at a further option of presenting the user with a 'ballot' screen when starting up a system for the first time. This would allow them to choose from a pre-installed set of web browsers.
"We will continue to discuss browser issues and other matters with the EC," concluded Heiner.
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