MICROSOFT'S ANNOUNCEMENT yesterday that it will unbundle Internet Exploder (IE) from Windows 7 in Europe has been met with widespread skepticism.
The Vole's pledge to allow OEMs to bundle, and end users to install, competing web browsers instead of IE was out less than a day before the European Competition Commission raised its eyebrows, according to the AP.
Europe's top antitrust regulator indicated that it will continue to pursue Microsoft over antitrust issues for having bundled IE with Windows for the last 12 years.
In a statement, the Commission said it "notes with interest" Microsoft's announcement but it would rather come up with its own remedy to allow computer users "genuine consumer choice".
It was also critical of the Vole's apparent plan to sell retail copies of Windows 7 without any web browser at all, which could set up a potential Catch-22 situation in that the ploy might make it impossible for buyers to initially access the Internet at all in order to download any alternative web browser.
The EC statement said, "In terms of potential remedies, if the Commission were to find that Microsoft had committed an abuse, the Commission has suggested that consumers should be offered a choice of browser not that Windows should be supplied without a browser at all."
In addition, as Groklaw pointed out, Microsoft's announcement contradicts what it told the US courts. Then, the Vole insisted it was impossible to remove IE from Windows without breaking the operating system, but now it says that its Windows Vista service pack that it calls Windows 7 has been designed such that it won't break if IE is removed.
Having seen how Microsoft has operated over more than two decades, a lot of observers expect that it will continue to use its monopoly power to influence OEMs to keep preinstalling IE, and will make it as difficult as possible for Windows users to acquire and install an alternative web browser. The Vole doesn't play fair, as it has shown time and time again throughout its history, so it would be laughably naive to believe that it is suddenly going to start behaving itself now.
The EC is sending out a questionnaire to PC makers and software vendors asking for recommendations on the best method of implementing an effective remedy for Microsoft's dominance in the browser market.
Microsoft probably didn't expect an easy ride from the EU Commission, but it seems clear that unbundling IE isn't going to get it off the hook in Brussels. µ
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