Wednesday marked the implementation of a "ballot box" for Windows 7 , a move by Microsoft to assuage the European Commission's ire at alleged antitrust business practices. Due to the bundling of Internet Explorer with the Windows operating system, Microsoft gives the browser an unfair advantage that stifles merit-based competition with other browsers, says the EC. To solve this problem, the Redmond-based software maker will initiate a Windows 7 setup feature - the new OS will be available in the US later this month - that will present itself to Windows users via push from the operating system update software.
The ballot box takes the form of a window that will present a choice of browsers in alphabetic order - the five most popular will be the first that the user sees. The user chooses the browser, or browsers, he or she wishes to install, and the software update does the rest. In addition, the box also explains what a browser actually is, and some information about the different choices' features.
If the introductory attempt performs well, Microsoft will commit to the browser ballot box for the next five years. The effect that this will have on browser usage distribution will be of interest - in the past year IE's market share fell from 78.2% to 65.7%, while rivals Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, and Google Chrome all rose significantly, the latter's more than doubling.
The EC's concerns are met with mixed responses. Regarding Europe's antitrust fine of $1.35 billion, Information Week referenced former US antitrust chief Thomas Barnett, who criticized the fines as "chilling." The article deems the EU's treatment of Microsoft as unreasonable: "Demand for browsers must similarly follow a curve shaped by the virtues of the products on offer, and not by the EU's attempt to apportion market share based on outdated numbers, personal grudges, a late Beaujolais season or other irrelevant factors."