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EU Wants Multiple Browser Bundling On New PCs 464

Posted by timothy
from the pushy-paternalism dept.
An anonymous reader writes with a link to Ars Technica's report that "the EU is considering forcing Windows users to choose a browser to download and install before they can first browse the Internet, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription required). While the latest Windows 7 builds let you uninstall IE8, 'third-party browser makers like Opera, Mozilla and Google are pushing for tough sanctions against Microsoft. The EU would rather have a "ballot screen" for users to choose which browsers to download and install as well as which one to set as default. The bundling requirement might end up becoming a responsibility for manufacturers.'"
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EU Wants Multiple Browser Bundling On New PCs

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    You can't force them to support other browsers, hell, they could only support internet explorer if they wanted to.

    • by linhares (1241614) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @05:26PM (#28152587)
      1. google for this: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124362706194767281.html [wsj.com] 2. click on 1st link 3. no paywall if you come from google
    • by Jurily (900488) <jurily@NETBSDgmail.com minus bsd> on Saturday May 30, 2009 @05:53PM (#28152831)

      You can't force them to support other browsers, hell, they could only support internet explorer if they wanted to.

      Your choices:

      Internet Explorer 8 (Recommended)
      AOL Explorer
      Lynx

    • If you were literate, you might understand that no one is requiring Microsoft to support other browsers. Microsoft is being required to make options available. Maybe I'm being unfair, and you really are literate. Could be, in your native language "making available" and "support" are synonymous. Nanu Nanu, dude.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by drsmithy (35869)

        If you were literate, you might understand that no one is requiring Microsoft to support other browsers. Microsoft is being required to make options available.

        Why is this Microsoft's problem and not that of the OEMs selling the computers ?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          If you were literate, you might understand that no one is requiring Microsoft to support other browsers. Microsoft is being required to make options available.

          Why is this Microsoft's problem and not that of the OEMs selling the computers ?

          Because Microsoft made it their problem when they dictated to OEMs what software will and will not be included on shipping computers. Abusing a monopoly ring a bell? These facts are ancient history now so I find it hard to believe your ingnorance is not intentional.

  • Forcing OEMs? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nmb3000 (741169) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Saturday May 30, 2009 @05:02PM (#28152307) Homepage Journal

    The bundling requirement might end up becoming a responsibility for manufacturers.

    This is just as stupid as forcing Microsoft to bundle alternative browser binaries with Windows.

    The solution to the problem is to force Microsoft to allow OEMs to bundle other browsers with Windows the same way they do anything else. Microsoft's dictating what software can be included with Windows is the real anti-competitive behavior here -- so fix it by removing that behavior. If Dell wants to include Firefox, let them. If Opera wants to sign a deal with HP to include its browser on all their machines, let them.

    Don't force all OEMs to include all browsers. That's stupid and impractical.

    • Re:Forcing OEMs? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Joce640k (829181) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @05:06PM (#28152359) Homepage

      No!!!

      The amount of crapware they could preinstall with a customized browser is unthinkable.

    • Re:Forcing OEMs? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 30, 2009 @05:09PM (#28152389)

      Microsoft's rules do not disallow OEMs bundling browsers.

      Believe it or not.

      • Re:Forcing OEMs? (Score:5, Informative)

        by DurendalMac (736637) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @05:13PM (#28152437)
        Not anymore, but back when Netscape and IE were slugging it out it sure did. MS was threatening to pull Windows out from under any OEM that bundled Netscape with a new PC.
        • OK, but now they don't, rendering your point (in relation to our current situation) somewhat moot.

          • Re:Forcing OEMs? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by spire3661 (1038968) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @06:10PM (#28152997) Journal

            Actually, it is those actions PRECISELY why we are in the situation we are in now. The argument is most certainly NOT moot. They used that illegal action to become the defacto browser, and now its time to pay at least lip service to the piper for it.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by JAlexoi (1085785)

            OK, but now they don't, rendering your point (in relation to our current situation) somewhat moot.

            And you really want to leave that power with them?
            We have a fact of them (ab)using that power, why should we, the EU people let them have it. I vote take that power from them!

    • The solution to the problem is to force Microsoft to allow OEMs to bundle other browsers with Windows the same way they do anything else.

      That would once have been a viable solution. That is no longer the case. The remedy for a knife wound is more than removing the knife. The EU needs to repair the damage done to the market, and that means restoring the browser market to a competitive state. OEMs have plenty of incentive to bundle only IE, resulting from the current, broken state of the market, even if they are not forbidden from installing others. If the EU is really looking to restore a competitive free market where innovation is driven by

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by drinkypoo (153816)

        That would once have been a viable solution. That is no longer the case. The remedy for a knife wound is more than removing the knife. The EU needs to repair the damage done to the market, and that means restoring the browser market to a competitive state.

        Even the makers of Firefox do not want Firefox bundled with Windows. IE's market share is declining and Firefox's is rising due to natural market forces now that Microsoft has been called on their forcing OEMs to not bundle other browsers. Your proposed 'solution' would harm vendors by forcing them to include additional software, and harm users because many of those vendors would get it wrong.

        I agree that the remedy is more than saying "Don't do that again". The answer, of course, is to calculate the damage

    • Grab a Compaq PC. Circa 1995-97, with one of their Customized Windows 95 OS'es on it. If it boots up and it has a Compaq Logo instead of a Win95 logo Like this guy's [youtube.com], then you're on the right track.

      After you cringe in horror, explain to me again why allowing OEM's to customize the OS to their liking is a great idea.

      I'm not saying that OEM's shouldn't be allowed to add software packages, but there is a fine line between useful and performance degrading. If an OEM thinks that they can sell more than the other

    • by JAlexoi (1085785)
      Allowing and not forcing them is what led to current situation.
      Why? Because, since no one is making MS to allow competition, they feel free to threaten the manufacturers in a nonofficial way. You know, the way they do it now.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 30, 2009 @05:03PM (#28152309)

    Wont anybody think of the users. I dont want to have to make choices thats why I use Windows in the first place.

  • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @05:07PM (#28152361)
    Which browser do you want?
    [ ]IE
    [ ]FireFox
    [ ]Opera
    [ ]Safari

    Which image editor do you want?
    [ ]MS Paint
    [ ]GIMP
    [ ]Paint.net

    Which text editor do you want?
    [ ]Notepad
    [ ]Notepad2
    [ ]vi
    [ ]Emacs

    and on and on...
    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @05:11PM (#28152407) Homepage
      Except that, really, the Emacs option should be in the "Which Operating System Do You Want?" selection.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Which would be kinda neat, if your options were be comparable. You can't compare MS Paint with GIMP, or Notepad with vim. Having such a choice for a browser, mail client, etc., would be fine. But making the average Joe choose between Notepad and vim would certainly be a distaster for those that chose vim. Your joke would probably be funny if you were given a choice between IE and Lynx...

      • User:It won't type right; it just beeps! (happens to type the letter "i") oh there it goes. Now how do I save?
        Tech support:Use gvim.

    • Your set of options sounds like doing a Linux install, save for including MS options. :)

  • In a near future... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gmuslera (3436) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @05:08PM (#28152373) Homepage Journal
    Windows will become itself a linux-like distribution, with hundreds of included, tested, and secure packages of several alternative tools for the same purpose. Think like Kubuntu, that comes with the KDE desktop, Konqueror as default browser and several more "by default" applications, but where you can install with a command alternate browsers, office suites, entire desktops, and so on.
  • All that needs to be done is make IE8 removable. Like completely removable, not just a "hide the icon" sort of uninstall and give OEMs the right to put whatever browser they want on their systems.

    Why bother fucking about with some sort of software that asks the user? There probably won't be any expectation of this ballot system giving the pros and cons of each browser so they'll just opt for the familiar IE they've always used.

    EU proves to be ineffective by being too late on doing something about this
    • by Kamokazi (1080091)

      IE is removable in Win7. I know RTFA is not standard practice on Slashdot, but at least read the summary.

      And you're right, the user prompt is stupid. 90% of people don't know or don't care what browser they use. Many of them will click on the blue e that they are used to. But, I also see this as drastically increasing Chrome's marketshare, because a lot of people will see 'Google' and click on that instead.

      Opera and Firefox on the other hand, will see little love, unless someone really likes red or furry

    • by Thinboy00 (1190815) <thinboy00NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday May 30, 2009 @05:27PM (#28152591) Journal

      Win7 lets you remove iexplore.exe but not Trident's libraries (the rendering engine).

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Darkness404 (1287218)
        ...And for those who don't know Trident is used a lot in help files so it is kinda necessary
        • Speaking of which... what's a good alternative to CHM?

          PDF woefully lacks proper indexing, searching, etc. and the file tends to bloat up pretty crazily.
          a bunch of loose HTML files doesn't do searching at all unless you host the thing on your server with a server-side search.. and it's a bunch of loose HTML files.

          Checking Google, I see lots of alternative viewers and some compilers, but nothing in the way of an alternative format (the search terms may be too generic - who knows). If one exists, I'd love poi

    • by zoney_ie (740061)

      The EU compared to who else...? The old saying "better late than never" comes to mind. I think the US opted for the "never" approach to doing something about IE bundling.

  • Hm. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by goldaryn (834427) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @05:13PM (#28152443) Homepage
    Hang on a minute, browser bundling?

    The EU would rather have a "ballot screen" for users to choose which browsers to download and install as well as which one to set as default

    That's not really bundling now, is it? How do they server this list to the user? Must be a webpage, Shirley?

    Also.. who chooses which browsers are included in the list? M$? What's to stop M$ putting theirs at the top of the list? I like the idea but it needs more thinking through. I read TFA (yes, I'm new here, etc.) and it was very light on detail.

    I somehow sense this isn't the end of the matter..
    • The EU is considering it. This is very early in the game. Don't expect details; they still have to argue about those.

    • Yeah, If I were Microsoft, I would provide the following options

      amaya [w3.org]
      Maxthon [maxthon.com]
      crazy browser [crazybrowser.com]
      grail [sourceforge.net]
    • by Patch86 (1465427)

      Not all things served over the internet are done through a web browser. Haven't you heard of those heady days before the web, of usenets and IRCs? It'd be trivial to make a simple one-shot installer programme for allowing the user to choose and donwload a browser.

      Your point about who chooses the list stands though.

  • How long until they're forced to offer options of different operating systems at startup?



    Are they required to pick popular browsers as alternatives?

    Which browser would you like to use? Internet Explorer, Lynx, or xBrowser?
  • Proper tabloid (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 30, 2009 @05:35PM (#28152663)

    Timothy, please next time consider the difference between the verb used in the title (EU Wants Multiple Browser Bundling On New PCs) and in TF summary (the EU is considering forcing Windows users to choose).

    We don't need you to be a professional editor (even though you probably are paid for the job), but please just try not to work like a moron from a random tabloid.

  • . . . forcing Windows users to choose . . .

    How about saying, or believing, "Free to Choose" . . . ?

    • by Ektanoor (9949)

      Sorry but reminding of Milton Friedman on these days, it would be the same as advocating for Monarchy right after the American Revolution...

      Yes, you may bash me that I am remarking that freedoms may be not so free. And you may keep yourself on Milton Friedman, while the Economy slumps under his theories.

      But I do prefer a chance to have some other new and real freedoms tomorrow. And not being fed by the abstract, scholastic and spooky "Free to Choose" under the absolute totalitarian rule of Microsoft. Even i

  • Let me preface this tirade with a disclaimer: Yes, I realize Microsoft is a huge company, with enough resources and market share to constitute a monopoly, and is therefore deserving of governments' watchful eyes. I also realize that IE may not be the highest quality browser out there; and that Microsoft has been known to 'embrace and extinguish'. I'm also glad that Microsoft didn't get to design (for instance) the IMAP RFC. Please note I'm not making any _legal_ arguments, just "history-of-OS" type argument

    • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @06:21PM (#28153101)

      ...and that Microsoft has been known to 'embrace and extinguish'.

      You do know that phrase originated with MS's internal discussions of illegally destroying Web browsers and Web technologies that might threaten them, right?

      HOWEVER, this knee-jerk reaction to the browser-wars is really fundamentally flawed.

      What knee jerk reaction. MS undermined the free market in illegal ways. Is maybe that you just don't understand the logical reactions of people to the situation and thus brand them "kneejerk". That seems implied by your later failure to understand the issues of antitrust law.

      I think it's time we realize that a music jukebox, dvd player, web browser, and text editor have become integral parts of an OS (per my definition).

      Is a telephone an integral part of a telephone network? Sure. That doesn't matter because it is also a separate market from telephone service which is why AT&T can't require you to rent a telephone from them anymore, but must sell them separately from your wired connection. It's also the reason after a decade of stagnation we suddenly jumped forward and got push buttons, speed dial, and answering machines when AT&T's monopoly abuse was stopped.

      The browser was and is a separate market and we're quite likely to see the same rapid innovation to the benefit of everyone as soon as MS's antitrust abuse is stopped. The thing most Slashdotters can't seem to wrap their heads around is an economic issue of markets, not a technological issue.

      I say "rubbish. You might as well ask the user to choose different versions of the TCP stack, paint program, image libraries, and mouse drivers too."

      Please do your research. We're talking about separate, preexisting markets. Of the things you mention, only the paint program applies under the law.

      Go and get alternatives if you like, just as you're free to get another media player, paint program or ftp client.

      Which does nothing to address the broken market or criminal acts or to improve innovation and lower costs. I have an idea, why don't you learn why antitrust laws exist before declaring them to be wrong?

      I don't see noise directed against Apple or Linux or BSD, likely because they are {not monopolies | high enough in market share | something else that I can't grok}.

      I'll try to explain with an analogy. Murder is illegal. Firing a gun is legal. Firing a gun at a person in a way that murders them is illegal. Bundling is legal. Bundling in a way that undermines the free market is illegal.

      In this analogy, only MS has a gun. Apple and Canonical can bundle browsers and OS's all they want because they don't even have to power undermine the market if they wanted to. Apple, on the other hand, is close to having sufficient power in the portable, digital music player market that the EU has looked into restricting them with regard to bundling things with iPods. Companies in the US and EU regularly consider antitrust issues when they have dominance in markets. The real difference here is not the way laws are applied, but that MS has so blatantly disregarded the laws everyone else obeys.

      This would suggest that the bundling of Safari on Mac, or Mozilla on Linux is not fundamentally wrong, and is also not wrong on Windows.

      Hopefully from my previous comments you now understand that no one suggests bundling is fundamentally wrong. Undermining the free market is fundamentally wrong. Bundling in particular circumstances in ways that undermine markets is what is illegal and detrimental to society.

      Perhaps this is unfair to the hapless (as far as tech goes) politicians, but they seem little more than shills for lobbyists, and don't seem to really understand the dangerous precedent they might be setting.

      Yeah, enforcing the same

  • by plusser (685253) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @05:47PM (#28152771)

    I wonder whether as a result of this policy that IE6 becomes one of the many different browser options, just to keep happy those businesses with legacy code that wont work on anything else!

    Now that really would cause Microsoft a headache - competing with its own lack of standards...

    Not that many web designers will be happy with this though!

  • by knorthern knight (513660) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @05:51PM (#28152815)

    So "all other browsers" can demand to be on the list. What's to prevent "American Adware" and "Built By Boris" (from Russian Business Network) from showing up on the list?

  • The last thing a consumer wants to do, when they turn on a computer, is to immediately be asked more questions. It's a pain in the rear. Sorry EU, but how about we start requiring that all cars imported from the EU to the USA have the option of being fitted with American V8s....

    oh wait, that sounds like a good a idea.

    Never mind.

  • The real problem isn't the IE shell, it's the Microsoft HTML control, and even if you quote-remove-IE-unquote all that removes is the shell.

    • Pisses me off when i make Firefox my default browser, but steam INSISTS on using IE for almost everything in their client.

  • If i were MS (Score:2, Insightful)

    by B5_geek (638928)

    If I were MS I'd do it for them for free:

    Just include a copy of lynx.

  • This is not fair (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cybereal (621599) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @06:09PM (#28152973) Homepage

    This whole "browser war" nonsense has gone on long enough. Back when a browser was a novelty, perhaps even sold on the shelf at the store, maybe it made sense to worry about competition. However, now that the browser is essential to everyday computing and part of the platform, the demands being made entirely idiotic. It should not matter if people are given IE8 out of the gate or not. I do agree that they should be able to disable or uninstall it if they feel it's a security problem. However, forcing vendors to include other browsers is only slightly widening the selective controlled distribution and does not address any of the problems IE's dominance has caused in the first place.

    Quite simply put, the reason IE is popular is because people do not care about which browser they use. A small percentage does, and it seem this site is popular with that group but at this point, a browser is part of a platform as a steering wheel is part of a car. Occasionally an enthusiast replaces his steering wheel but most people don't care about it.

    But what does a steering wheel have in common with browsers besides being a platform staple? They support standards. The steering wheel is a standard interface, and while they do vary from car to car, they all support a common baseline of functionality and features.

    So the real solution to this IE problem is not to force a company to support their competition. No I vehemently disagree with that, it's simply wrong to force a company to collude with their competition. Instead, the solution is to enforce IE's support of recognized standards. If you truly wish to neuter Microsoft's control of the WWW, then limit them to implementing standards compliant browsing only, let the community and the market decide what that means, and then let people continue to make their own choices about browsers.

    Frankly if you look at all platforms, not just personal computer platforms, you will see that they all include their own browser choice, whether it be a Linux based OS that includes firefox, or a smartphone that includes a webkit based browser like Nokia's S60 platform. Macs include Safari, my Wii came with a free Opera download, my DSi came with a free opera download, and my PS3 includes a browser based on the same tech they use for their feature cell phones.

    So targeting microsoft just because this mattered 10 years ago is pretty ridiculous, especially when you're failing to target the real problem in the first place.

    • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @07:00PM (#28153405)

      This whole "browser war" nonsense has gone on long enough. Back when a browser was a novelty, perhaps even sold on the shelf at the store, maybe it made sense to worry about competition. However, now that the browser is essential to everyday computing and part of the platform, the demands being made entirely idiotic.

      So your argument is that browsers are now more important, so competition and the advantages t brings via the free market are less important? Umm. That's a very umm, creative opinion.

      It should not matter if people are given IE8 out of the gate or not.

      And it shouldn't matter if you have to pay AT&T to rent on old rotary dial phone, you can always buy a better one and use it. That is if you ignore everything we know about markets, innovation and antitrust abuse and its affects.

      However, forcing vendors to include other browsers is only slightly widening the selective controlled distribution and does not address any of the problems IE's dominance has caused in the first place.

      Actually it does. If Web developers know a particular standards compliant browser will be installed on every computer, they are more likely to implement new, standards compliant technologies since they can be confident all users will be able to use sites that rely upon them.

      ...a browser is part of a platform as a steering wheel is part of a car.

      Your analogy fails. No one has a monopoly on cars and steering wheels don't constitute a pre-existing, separate market.

      Instead, the solution is to enforce IE's support of recognized standards.

      This is one, potential remedy, but it is only a partial solution. It is, in fact, what Opera asked for as a remedy.

      Frankly if you look at all platforms, not just personal computer platforms, you will see that they all include their own browser choice, whether it be a Linux based OS that includes firefox, or a smartphone that includes a webkit based browser like Nokia's S60 platform.

      Yes, they do. If you look at computers in general, you'll notice they all include RAM. You'll also notice the RAM doesn't come bundled with the graphics chipset and people selling computers aren't forced to buy the two components from the same vendor because one company developed a monopoly on graphic chipsets and forced everyone to buy RAM with it. Instead computer makers buy the best RAM and the best graphic chipset and combine them. The point is to make sure because OEMs are forced to buy and ship the Windows OS because it has monopolized the market, they aren't given incentive to chose anything other than the best Web browser to include as well.

      So targeting microsoft just because this mattered 10 years ago is pretty ridiculous...

      It matters today. Without competition in the Web browser market, it stagnates and technologies don't advance rapidly. We've had a decade of crippled Web technologies and Web developers being forced to find ever more clever ways to hack around the limitations and make really old and incomplete technologies work. The easiest way to fix the problem and keep it fixed is to restore the free market and let it do the work.

  • by spywhere (824072) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @06:10PM (#28152989)
    It's not fair that General Motors put only their own radio in my Malibu.

    Worse, they tied my Chevy's radio to the operating system: the volume turns up when the car goes faster, and it knows which key fob I used to unlock the doors. This is anticompetitive and monopolist.

    I demand that GM install multiple radios -- one each from Ford, Chrysler, Bosch, Blaupunkt, and Kraco, plus an open-source handwired crystal receiver from Heathkit -- and I demand that they print the wiring diagram on the hood (so I can design my own radio anytime I come down off the Percocet).
    Every time I start the car, I should be presented with a menu allowing me to choose which will serve as the "default radio."
  • by creimer (824291) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @06:24PM (#28153127) Homepage
    The first thing that I want a brand new Windows installation to do is download the latest security patches. Downloading a web browser should come after that.
  • Why the fuss? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by shish (588640) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @06:28PM (#28153161) Homepage
    OEMs pick an antivirus for their users: fine
    OEMs pick image organisers for their users: also fine
    OEMs pick ISP software for their users: no problem
    OEMs are given the opportunity to pick browsers for their users: *shitstorm*

    To me this looks like the media trolling for attention; in the real world OEMs will either bundle IE or IE + firefox, and no end user will notice any difference...

  • by Kuciwalker (891651) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @06:45PM (#28153315)
    I would just LOVE to, when installing Windows, have to sit through a dozen screens asking me "hey which browser do you want, hey which text editor do you want, hey which music player do you want, hey which chat software do you want...". NOT. FUCK YOU EU, your whole court system is a bunch of money-grubbing morons.
  • Obvious question (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mr_Silver (213637) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @07:20PM (#28153593)

    Why exactly would an OEM want to do this?

    It's not like bundling Firefox with their PC is going to increase their sales or profit. If Opera were going to pay them to bundle their browser, they would have done it by now (as someone has already pointed out, Microsoft doesn't prevent this).

    In short, I really cannot see any OEM's bothering to do this - and so nothing will change.

  • by Lazy Jones (8403) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @08:36PM (#28154211) Homepage Journal
    The EU should force the large PC manufacturers to support multiple OSes, that's all that is needed. Start with drivers, come up with a certificate that is awarded only if the hardware manufacturer publishes an Open Source reference driver for that piece of hardware, then make that certificate a requirement for imports into / sales in the EU.

    I really don't see why the browser should be such a priority, it is easier to install Firefox than another OS and Windows is more dominant in the OS market than MSIE in the browser market.

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