European Windows 7 users may get browser ballot screen

In North America, Windows 7 will come pre-loaded with Internet Explorer 8, no questions asked. In Europe, things are still up in the air. Microsoft initially planned to sell a browser-free version of Win7 exclusively in the EU, but it's come up with a new scheme that would involve a browser selection ballot screen.

The Associated Press says the European Commission has welcomed the idea, although it's still examining Microsoft's offer and talking it over with "other browser makers and computer companies." Here's what Microsoft is proposing, in the AP's words:

On the browser case, Microsoft is suggesting that users of Windows XP, Vista or its latest release Windows 7 who have Internet Explorer set as the default browser would see a Web page prompting them to pick from five of the most popular browsers in Europe. Existing Windows users would get the ballot screen from a software update.

Microsoft said the list of browsers would be reviewed twice a year based on usage data for the previous six months.

As part of the scheme, Windows would remain bundled with IE in Europe, but users and PC vendors would be free to disable the browser. Until the Commission renders a verdict, however, Microsoft plans to go ahead with the browser-less Windows 7 E.

In case you overlooked all the commotion, Microsoft came under fire from the Commission recently because of a complaint from Opera Software—the folks behind the Opera browser—about browser bundling in Windows. According to an older ComputerWorld report, the Commission said a few months back it was "considering ordering Microsoft and [PC vendors] to obligate users to choose a particular browser when setting up a new PC."

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