Browser makers have spoken out against Microsoft's latest proposal to open up competition in the market by shipping copies of Windows 7 without Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) bundled in.
Opera's chief technology officer, Hakon Wium Lie, said that he was "not impressed at all" by the latest proposal from Microsoft, which would let computer manufacturers choose which browser or browsers to include on new Windows 7 PCs.
"If this had happened in 1997 when the competition case was first being heard in the US, maybe it would have helped in creating a level playing field," Lie said. "But this is too little, too late. It won't restore competition in the browser market."
Lie added that, although IE8 would not be bundled into Windows 7 as standard by Microsoft, computer makers would choose the Microsoft browser anyway as this was the easy option. "[Microsoft is] putting all the pieces into place for OEMs to put in IE8 anyway," he said.
Instead of the Microsoft proposal to ship browser-free copies of Windows 7 in Europe, Lie supported the European Commission's (EC's) recommendation of a 'ballot screen'. This would present users with a choice of browsers when first starting up their new PC, along with an explanation of what each one offers.
"It would be easy from there for users to install a browser, and go online and browse," Lie said. "This would actually give users a genuine choice."
Lie was speaking to vnunet.com from a planned media event in Brussels, where Opera has also been meeting with the EC about the browser market. He added that he had just come from demonstrating a mock-up of the ballot screen to the EC.
Rival browser firm Mozilla, creator of Firefox, was also less than impressed by Microsoft's proposals.
"It's impossible to evaluate what this means unless and until Microsoft describes, completely and with specificity, all the incentives and disincentives applicable to Windows OEMs," John Lilly, chief executive of Mozilla Corporation, said in an email statement.
"Without this it's impossible to tell if Microsoft is giving something with one hand and taking it away with the other, and more to the point, it's impossible to tell whether this does anything more than change the technical installation process of the OEMs and make life more difficult for people upgrading to Windows 7."
Microsoft's latest proposal was aimed at appeasing the EC, which has been investigating the software giant for anti-competitive behaviour and abusing its dominant position in the marketplace by tying its own web browser into its Windows operating system.
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