Posts Tagged ‘Anti-trust’

Opera has told The Register it is still unhappy with Microsoft’s new browser ballot screen.

The problem according to Opera, is that the ballot screen is completely obstructed when a user opens Internet Explorer for the first time on a fresh installation of Windows.

Opera fears that users will just ignore the ballot screen, and continue to use Internet Explorer without realising they had a choice.

Microsoft has dismissed the claims. “This scenario is very easy to reproduce in a test lab, but would occur only in unusual cases in the real world. For it to occur with the Browser Choice screen, the user would need to have IE set as their default browser and have never configured it for use. Opera’s example, where a Windows XP user has rejected installation of IE 8 for the year it has been available but suddenly decides to install it is not realistic” said a Microsoft spokesperson.

Opera has alerted the European Union of the problem.

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After reports two weeks ago that Microsoft’s Browser Ballot screen for the European Union was not as random as first seemed, Microsoft have updated the algorithm used to determine a browsers random position.

“We can confirm that we made a change to the random icon order algorithm in the browser choice screen for Europe,” said Microsoft spokesman Kevin Kutz.

IBM software architect Rob Weir who has been testing the randomness of the browser screen said he noticed a change last week. “Sometime last week — I don’t know the exact date — Microsoft updated the code for the browser choice website with a new random shuffle algorithm” Weir wrote on his blog.

From Weir’s early testing, the update appears to have solved the problem, with each browser now just as likely to appear in position number one.

Weir has created a test page, where users are able to test the ballot screens randomness for themselves.

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Microsoft has begun testing of its new browser ballot screen for European Union countries.

The ballot screen, which can be seen at, lists the 5 major browsers in a random order, followed by 8 lesser known browsers also in a random order.

Early testing by shows the ballot screen might not be as random as once thought, with testing showing that the screen appears to favour Google’s Chrome, while IE shows the least amount of favouritism.

These results could be an anomalie however, and may differ with further testing.

A Windows Update is available for download for Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 users in United Kingdom, Belgium and France.

The European Union (EU) has accepted Microsoft’s proposal for a browser ballot screen, allowing Windows users to choose their browser on first run.

The ballot screen will be pushed out to users of Windows XP, Vista, and 7 via Windows Update for users in the EU and neighbouring countries.

The ballot screen is required to be in place for at least the next 5 years, or Microsoft face fines of up to 10% of it’s world wide turnover.

On release, the ballot screen is set to include the 5 major browser – Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome and Opera – all in a random order. Users will also be able to scroll down the screen to choose less popular browsers. These include AOL, Maxthon, K-Meleon, Flock, Avant Browser, Sleipnir and Slim Browser.

The list of browsers is set to be reviewed every 6 months.

“We hope this closes a long chapter in a sometimes uneasy relationship with the Commission, and we hope it opens a new one,” said Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes.

The ballot screen is expected to be pushed out to users in the first part of 2010.

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Microsoft has conceded to pressure from the European Union (EU), and will now randomise the order of web browsers displayed on the systems browser ballot screen for EU users.

This comes as a bit of a blow for Apple, who were in line to have Safari first on the ballot screen.

Microsoft is now expecting approval of the new ballot screen before Christmas, and will push out an update to all Windows users in the EU with the ballot screen update.

The browser ballot screen will run the first time a user opens Internet Explorer, and will offer the user a choice of browser.

Currently, Apple’s Safari, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, and Internet Explorer are all set to be included on the ballot screen.

The end may finally be in sight for Microsoft in the anti-trust case.

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Microsoft has made changes to the browser ballot screen that will be shipped with Windows 7, and rolled out to past versions of Windows in European Union countries, in a bid to keep the European Union happy.

The ballot screen will give users the easy choice to download and install up to 12 different browsers, with the big 5 – Apple Safari, Google Chrome, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Opera heading up the list.

Browser Ballot Screen

Changes to the ballot screen include:

  • Make it so competing browsers can be downloaded from the ballot screen more quickly and easily
  • Ensure equivalent placement on the Windows 7 taskbar for Internet Explorer and all other browser icons
  • Add introductory information, improving the design of the ballot page about each browser to help users make more informed choices
  • Alphabetize the list of browsers so that the five most popular are listed first (by vendor), followed by the next seven most popular (also alphabetically ordered), so that 12 choices are displayed in total
  • Provide the browser ballot to users for five years

The browser ballot screen is set to be rolled out to users on October 22nd, the same day Windows 7 goes on sale worldwide.

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Mozilla has responded to Microsoft’s proposal for a browser ballot in Windows and they are not satisfied.

Mozilla VP and General Counsel Harvey Anderson believes that various mechanisms in the operating system that are controlled by Microsoft could create conditions that encourage users to unintentionally reset their default browser to Internet Explorer.

“Our most urgent concerns in the EC investigation related to protecting a user’s choice of a non-IE browser. The proposal largely addresses those concerns and should merit support if certain deficiencies are corrected” said Anderson.

Anderson is quick to criticise, but offers little in the way of suggestions to ease his concerns. Full details on Anderson’s concerns can be read in his blog post.

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Microsoft has confirmed that users of Windows Vista and Windows XP in the European Union will also be provided with a ballot screen of web browsers.

The change will be pushed out via Windows Update to all users in the EU.

“Microsoft will distribute a Ballot Screen software update to users within the EEA of Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows Client PC Operating Systems, by means of Windows Update as described hereafter: A software update enabling the Ballot Screen to be displayed will be made available to all current and future users of Windows XP and Windows Vista who receive updates from Windows Update. For Windows XP and Windows Vista users the Ballot Screen update will first be made available between 3 and 6 months after the adoption of the Commission’s decision.”

There is still no word on when the final decision will be made.

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Microsoft has finally craved to pressure from the European Union, and instead of offering no browser in Windows 7 E in Europe, the company will offer a ballot screen which will allow users to choose a web browser.

This is a big win for consumers, with the EU acknowledging the decision. “The European Commission can confirm that Microsoft has proposed a consumer ballot screen as a solution to the pending antitrust case.”

“We believe that if ultimately accepted, this proposal will fully address the European competition law issues relating to the inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows and interoperability with our high-volume products,” said Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith.

A proposed ballot screen can be seen below:


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Internet Explorer LogoMicrosoft has revealed that it will charge €4 for a copy on Internet Explorer 8 on CD, after announcing that Windows 7 will ship in the European Union without Internet Explorer.

The move to remove the browser from the operating system is a direct result of action taking against Microsoft by the European Union with companies such as Opera and Mozilla.

Internet Explorer 8 will however remain free for users to download, along with competing browsers. The biggest issue that most will face is the inability to browse to websites on a fresh install of Windows 7 to download a browser of their choice.

This is not expected to be a problem for those who buy their PC’s from manufactures such as Dell and HP, as they are still expected to bundle browsers with new systems.