This morning I’m glad I don’t live in the EU. Apparently caught between their desire to ship Windows 7 by October of this year, and the EU’s intractable stance on including the browser in the operating system, Microsoft has decided to ship European specific Windows 7 SKU’s with no browser whatsoever. Computer manufacturers will be free to pre-install whatever browser they wish on the PC. Consumers will be free to do the same. In fact, they will have to, since Windows 7 won’t come with any browser. Microsoft plans to make IE available via CDs in stores, as well as through FTP file transfers.
Ugh. Imagine being the family tech support guy or gal when the new version of Windows arrives with NO browser. Get your thumb drives out boys and girls. Better make sure you’ve got a browser available before you start the upgrade.
EU officials had been demanding that the OS ship with competitors products installed, allowing users to make a choice. This would have been great for small browser companies like Opera. Opera CTO Hakon Wium Lie has been the most vocal figure at the EU, sensing a chance to gain free distribution at Microsoft’s expense. What a fabulous opportunity – work a few eurocrats into a lather over the unfairness of Microsoft’s OS monopoly (again) and garner instant access to millions and millions of consumers. Microsoft’s choice, however, is not good for Opera at all. Although it theoretically could result in a bidding war for the position of default browser on desktop PCs, the only vendor that might pay to be on the desktop is Google. Firefox is Open Source, Microsoft will likely not touch paying for distribution lest they be accused of further anti-competitive acts, Opera doesn’t have the money to bid, and Apple probably doesn’t really care.
The irony? IE share is already cratering worldwide no thanks to the EU.