Opera Shows Thumbs Down To Microsoft’s Exclusion of IE8 in Windows7

Opera Software has expressed their discontent over Microsoft move to exclude Internet Explorer 8 from Windows 7. The Norwegian browser-creator had earlier initiated anti-trust probe into the business practices of the software giant Microsoft in Europe.

Opera’s response comes in the wake of Microsoft revealing their plan to omit IE8 from its soon-to-be-released operating system Windows 7. This version of Windows 7 named ‘E’ edition is aimed exclusively for European Union market.

Arik Cohen, a program manager with Microsoft explained the exclusion in a Q&A section of Windows blog. He is equating this to the ‘Turn on or off’ feature in Windows control panel of the Windows 7 RC. The only variation is the absence of Internet Explorer 8 in the ‘E’ edition. He adds that all other components of IE will be retained in the ‘E’ edition, as they are part of the core of Windows OS.

In last March, Microsoft program managers revealed that the new operating system Windows 7 would have user setting for disabling and not deleting applications. This is achieved by incorporating the ‘Turn Windows features on and off’ button. Various bundled applications are included in this provision. When an application is deselected, the concerned files are not loaded by the operating system and thereby rendering it unavailable for the computer user.

The advantage of this provision is that the users can reactivate the features on their own and the files are not deleted permanently when deactivated.

However, Opera Software is not amused by the switch flip provision to make IE8 unavailable. In 2007, the browser maker had complained to EU regulators, which led to an antitrust investigation against Microsoft, for protecting IE8 from global competition.

Hakom Wium Lie, Chief Technology Officer at Opera Software clarified the Opera stand that ‘minor technical tweak’ by Microsoft will not be enough to restore competition in the browser world.

When the ‘E’ editions were announced by Microsoft in June, Opera took the news with a pinch of salt. Microsoft had not revealed the exact components they were planning to remove at that time. Lie had argued that Microsoft would retain the rendering engine and with Windows Update, IE8 will be back in no time.

The fact remains that Microsoft cannot chop off the entire IE8, as it might affect the functionality of the Operating System. This was confirmed last week by the announcement of Cohen, regarding the launch of ‘E’ edition in Europe. Microsoft will be retaining other components of IE in Windows 7, as they are part of Windows core and its functionality will be affected by removing these components. The most affected will be Windows Update.

Microsoft, while announcing its decision to remove IE from Windows 7 in its ‘E’ edition meant for European markets, accepted that the move would satisfy neither EU regulators nor its detractors. Dave Heiner, deputy counsel, Microsoft, acknowledged that their decision to market IE separately from Windows 7 in Europe couldn’t preclude the possibility of alternate approaches emerging through Commission processes.

Lie stressed Opera’s dissatisfaction at the turn of events. He said that switching off IE and retaining its components in the new version of OS is just not enough. He added that Opera believes in giving more browsers to users instead of less.

Meanwhile, Microsoft missed an oral hearing scheduled in early June due to conflicting schedules. On account of this, EU has not yet passed its ruling on the issue.

Opera’s demand is to incorporate a ballot screen in Windows to display a choice of browsers. These browsers may either be pre-installed in the computer or ready for download and installation. The users can click on the browser of their choice and use it with ease.

EU regulators also seem to favor this way out of the deadlock. A European Commission statement issued on June 12 is along these lines. According to the statement, incorporating a ballot screen in Windows will solve the incongruity of providing Windows without a browser to users. It would also give the user the added advantage of selecting a web browser from list given.

Another knot in this complicated issue is the incentive promised by Microsoft to European computer manufacturers to install IE8 on new PCs. Microsoft is refraining from making this information public. However, Mozilla had pointed out last month that the issue of incentive is vital in working out the chances of having a level field with the introduction of Windows 7. John Lilly, CEO, Mozilla has stressed the need for clear information regarding the incentives and disincentives offered by Microsoft for Windows 7E. Without a clear picture, it would be hard to understand whether Microsoft is giving with one hand and taking it back with the other.

Cohen of Microsoft claims that a ‘vast majority’ of the applications are compatible with Windows 7E. This includes all those programs using the embedded browser components like Trident, the layout engine of Internet Explorer.

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