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Microsoft apologises over Windows 8 browser ballot gaffe

Microsoft apologises over Windows 8 browser ballot gaffe

Microsoft has claimed its lack of a browser ballot screen in Windows was a 'technical error,' and promises to have it fixed by launch tomorrow.

Microsoft has responded to the European Commission's complaint over the lack of browser choice in Windows 8, claiming that a technical error is to blame.

Following accusations of anticompetitive behaviour and monopolistic practices regarding its bundling of the Internet Explorer browser with the Windows operating system - something never levelled at Apple and its bundling of the Safari browser with its OS X operating system, oddly - the European Commission forced Microsoft to provide users with a choice. The result was the 'browser ballot screen' - a window that pops up on the first run of Internet Explorer and provides one-click installation for rival browsers including Google's Chrome, Mozilla's Firefox and Opera's... well, Opera.

Those testing out Windows 8 ahead of launch, however, have spotted a little change: specifically, there's no browser ballot screen to be found. Instead, users in Europe are treated to the same experience as those in the rest of the world: an immediate launch of Internet Explorer.

When it caught wind of the change, the European Commission immediately sent Microsoft a formal complaint. Microsoft was quick to respond - as well it might: if the company is indeed in breach of Article 9 of the Antitrust Regulation, under which the browser ballot agreement was reached, the EC would be in a position to fine the company up to 10 per cent of its total annual turnover - hardly pocket change, even for Microsoft.

Just a day after the complaint was filed, Microsoft has released a statement blaming a technical error for the change and claiming that the browser ballot will be in place for the EU launch of Windows 8 tomorrow.

'We take this matter very seriously and moved quickly to address this problem as soon as we became aware of it' the company claims in its statement. 'Although this was the result of a technical error, we take responsibility for what happened, and we have taken steps to strengthen our internal procedures to help ensure something like this cannot happen again. We sincerely apologise for this mistake and will continue to cooperate fully with the Commission.

'In addition, after discussions with the Commission, we are changing some aspects of the way the Browser Choice Screen works on Windows 8 and will have those changes implemented when Windows 8 launches later this week.'

30 Comments

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ShinyAli 25th October 2012, 12:06 Quote
Quote:
'We take this matter very seriously and moved quickly to address this problem as soon as we became aware of it' the company claims in its statement. 'Although this was the result of a technical error, we take responsibility for what happened, and we have taken steps to strengthen our internal procedures to help ensure something like this cannot happen again. We sincerely apologise for this mistake and will continue to cooperate fully with the Commission.

It's MS, they never stop trying to dominate, "We'll try our luck and hope no one notices" same old, same old, same old
Andune 25th October 2012, 12:09 Quote
"something never levelled at Apple and its bundling of the Safari browser with its OS X operating system, oddly"

Because OS X / Safari had 5% / 4% of the market in 2009 when the BrowserChoice was introduced and still only have 7% / 4% today? Hard to accuse someone of monopolistic practices when they don't even have 10% of the market...

Still, this whole thing is stupid, IE no longer has over 75% market share and It's not that hard to install an alternative browser, most people use google and just look how much they push Chrome as an alternative.
Icy EyeG 25th October 2012, 12:53 Quote
If Windows RT really takes off, I'd like to know if the EU is going to do the same thing for Office RT, since alternatives as LibreOffice can't be fully ported to Windows RT as they are (because it's a locked down OS).
John_T 25th October 2012, 13:06 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by ShinyAli

It's MS, they never stop trying to dominate, "We'll try our luck and hope no one notices" same old, same old, same old

You mean they want to dominate their field, just like every single other company in existence would like to dominate their field? Not saying MS should be allowed to without some checks and balances, but just because they've been successful it doesn't mean their corporate morals are any different to anyone else's.

Gareth's point about Apple is a valid one: If a rule is good enough to apply to one company then it should be good enough to apply to all.
Gareth Halfacree 25th October 2012, 13:07 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andune
Because OS X / Safari had 5% / 4% of the market in 2009 when the BrowserChoice was introduced and still only have 7% / 4% today? Hard to accuse someone of monopolistic practices when they don't even have 10% of the market...
Article 9 actually deals with anticompetitive, not monopolistic, behaviours. It doesn't matter what your market share is for Article 9. If Microsoft isn't allowed to 'force' its browser on people, nor should Apple. Just sayin'.
Shirty 25th October 2012, 14:02 Quote
What troubles me with this is that Microsoft are not forcing anyone to use IE by including it with Windows. They are simply supplying a solution for those too lazy to look elsewhere.

It's a bit like how car manufacturers give you a set of tyres to start you off. You can choose to fit a different set if you wish, or you can replace them with the same brand. Why should car company X insist that you drive away on Michelin rubber when you 'd be better served by Bridgestone?
Icy EyeG 25th October 2012, 14:46 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shirty
What troubles me with this is that Microsoft are not forcing anyone to use IE by including it with Windows. They are simply supplying a solution for those too lazy to look elsewhere.

Yet Office on Windows RT is a case of forcing Software on consumers, but no one (not even EU) complains about it.
faugusztin 25th October 2012, 14:48 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Icy EyeG
Yet Office on Windows RT is a case of forcing Software on consumers, but no one (not even EU) complains about it.

No public complaint yet doesn't mean there is none targeted at Apple and/or MS.
Spreadie 25th October 2012, 14:50 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shirty
It's a bit like how car manufacturers give you a set of tyres to start you off. You can choose to fit a different set if you wish, or you can replace them with the same brand. Why should car company X insist that you drive away on Michelin rubber when you 'd be better served by Bridgestone?
Actually, to push the analogy, they give you Michelin but you can have Bridgestone for free instead; if you're willing to source them yourself. Article 9 prevents them from supplying dodgy wheels that make it difficult to fit Bridgestones. ;)
Snips 25th October 2012, 14:59 Quote
Can you download an IE browser on Chromebook or on a google handset?
TheAbyssDragon 25th October 2012, 14:59 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shirty
What troubles me with this is that Microsoft are not forcing anyone to use IE by including it with Windows. They are simply supplying a solution for those too lazy to look elsewhere.

Yes, but the problem arises when IE reasserts itself as the default browser (without asking) whenever a Windows Update includes an IE update. Not a problem for the likes of you and I, but something my grandma wouldn't notice except for the sudden disappearance of her bookmarks.
Snips 25th October 2012, 15:01 Quote
Why is it a problem if IE is the default browser anyway. Its previous version has been acclaimed as one of the best browers available today.
Shirty 25th October 2012, 15:27 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spreadie
Actually, to push the analogy, they give you Michelin but you can have Bridgestone for free instead; if you're willing to source them yourself. Article 9 prevents them from supplying dodgy wheels that make it difficult to fit Bridgestones. ;)

Article 9 is indeed essential, but have MS ever shown any signs of preventing the installation of other browsers? (I genuinely don't know.)
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheAbyssDragon
Yes, but the problem arises when IE reasserts itself as the default browser (without asking) whenever a Windows Update includes an IE update. Not a problem for the likes of you and I, but something my grandma wouldn't notice except for the sudden disappearance of her bookmarks.

That's a despicable practice, but not one I've ever noticed occurring on my machine - does this really happen?
Griffter 25th October 2012, 15:42 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snips
Why is it a problem if IE is the default browser anyway. Its previous version has been acclaimed as one of the best browers available today.

mmmm really? i hateeeeeeee IE.

what did this info say why its one of the best?
Spreadie 25th October 2012, 15:43 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheAbyssDragon
Yes, but the problem arises when IE reasserts itself as the default browser (without asking) whenever a Windows Update includes an IE update. Not a problem for the likes of you and I, but something my grandma wouldn't notice except for the sudden disappearance of her bookmarks.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shirty
That's a despicable practice, but not one I've ever noticed occurring on my machine - does this really happen?
It does ask, quite persistently, if you want to make IE your default browser from time to time.

As for automagically setting IE as default - I've never seen that happen.
Shirty 25th October 2012, 15:44 Quote
I agree it asks that every time you open it and it's not set as the default.
rollo 25th October 2012, 16:39 Quote
if apple had more than 10% of pc market they would be forced to offer the browser choice as it stands i bielive its below 7% at last check.

IE is still 55% which is more than the rest combined.
.//TuNdRa 25th October 2012, 16:51 Quote
I suspect a large portion of the IE market dominance is older systems. How many PCs out there still use XP? How many people have ancient installs that they're happy with because they're just not computer literate in the way this community is?

I wonder just how many people still use IE because they're not sure of the other browsers? Firefox and Chrome look similar, and IE has moved in that direction, but it might just be that they tried it, their favourite shortcut didn't work or it just didn't look right to them and immediately went back to Internet Exploder.
steveo_mcg 25th October 2012, 18:00 Quote
MS's biggest problem is their historical baggage after the "browser wars" they'll never be trusted not to abuse their position of virtual monopoly player in the desktop marked. Apple on the other hand are still bit part players when it comes to proper computers despite what their marketing would have you believe.
Bogomip 25th October 2012, 18:23 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by ShinyAli
It's MS, they never stop trying to dominate, "We'll try our luck and hope no one notices" same old, same old, same old

Yeah, they should be one of those companies who promotes their rivals and stuff like that... right? :)
Quote:
Originally Posted by article
Following accusations of anticompetitive behaviour and monopolistic practices regarding its bundling of the Internet Explorer browser with the Windows operating system - something never levelled at Apple and its bundling of the Safari browser with its OS X operating system, oddly - the European Commission forced Microsoft to provide users with a choice.

Yep, IE isn't the dominant browser anymore and so this rule should not still apply imo. If it should still apply to MS it should apply to Apple. Im not a fan of IE and haven't been using it since firefox 1.0 (moving onto chrome when that came out), but I am a fan of keeping things fair.

EDIT:

http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp - Browser statistics :)
RichCreedy 25th October 2012, 22:21 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shirty
What troubles me with this is that Microsoft are not forcing anyone to use IE by including it with Windows. They are simply supplying a solution for those too lazy to look elsewhere.

It's a bit like how car manufacturers give you a set of tyres to start you off. You can choose to fit a different set if you wish, or you can replace them with the same brand. Why should car company X insist that you drive away on Michelin rubber when you 'd be better served by Bridgestone?

not forgetting that without internet explorer on the machine in the first place, the user would have no way of downloading an alternate browser anyway, if that was their only machine
faugusztin 25th October 2012, 22:28 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by RichCreedy
not forgetting that without internet explorer on the machine in the first place, the user would have no way of downloading an alternate browser anyway, if that was their only machine

AOL (insert your provider name here) CD/DVD's like in old times ?
Sloth 25th October 2012, 23:12 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by faugusztin
AOL (insert your provider name here) CD/DVD's like in old times ?
I'm going to hope there's some sarcasm I'm just not picking up going on with that! I shudder at the thought of such relics from the Dark Ages of PCs.

Seems like unnecessary and artificial "fairness" to me. Including a web browser is a courtesy of most operating systems (I'm sure you can find Linux distros without one) not unlike Windows including Paint or WordPad. Internet Explorer happens to be decent as a browser so some users don't replace it, Microsoft has done nothing to prevent users from switching should they want to. Considering Bogomip's link shows that both Chrome and Firefox outrank IE by quite large margins it would seem that users are quite happily installing other browsers even without a pop-up when launching IE.
fdbh96 26th October 2012, 01:55 Quote
On my OS I don't really care about the 'browser ballot' anyway, as every time you go to google, it asks you to install chrome anyway.

However, it would be great if they could force Apple to let other browsers be the default on iOS. I prefer chrome by miles but its impractical to use it as it can't be set to default.
noizdaemon666 26th October 2012, 05:43 Quote
We have Windows 8 installed on nearly every machine where I work and have had for over a week. The browser ballot came down as an update not long after installation (sooner if you actively check for updates) and it popped up automatically after a restart.

I'm not sure how this is anticompetitive?
crudbreeder 26th October 2012, 09:29 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by noizdaemon666
I'm not sure how this is anticompetitive?

MS has made a deal with EU not to do things like this as part of the big lawsuit years ago. The EU now complains that MS are breaking that deal.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spreadie
As for automagically setting IE as default - I've never seen that happen.

That was how it worked with win 98 (or possibly 2k), and thats when the whole EU legal issue started.
Everytime you installed and update, or an MS product it reset the default browser to IE.
Some MS products even refused to work if you didn't have IE as default, and most of them always opened IE when you tried to open an URL, regardeless of the default.
ArcAngeL 26th October 2012, 21:37 Quote
What a load of BS, I'm not sure of a company that doesn't provide a browser with their OS, it's not forced on users, and they remain to have the choice to download and change to another.

EU are out of line to be suing Microsoft in the first place, without suing all other developers and operating systems, OSX, iOS, windows phone, Nokia's dead phone OS, ubuntu, blackberry etc.

Having to use a OS specific browser for the installation and distribution of an APP, from which takes a small fee, now that's anti trust.
ArcAngeL 26th October 2012, 22:04 Quote
My other gripe is that, Microsoft aren't the company preventing its installation onto many manufacturers hardware, apple on the other hand are. That's the real antitrust there.
sui_winbolo 26th October 2012, 22:26 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheAbyssDragon
Yes, but the problem arises when IE reasserts itself as the default browser (without asking) whenever a Windows Update includes an IE update. Not a problem for the likes of you and I, but something my grandma wouldn't notice except for the sudden disappearance of her bookmarks.

I've never seen this happen to me and I use Firefox exclusively on a few desktops.
noizdaemon666 27th October 2012, 05:32 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by crudbreeder
MS has made a deal with EU not to do things like this as part of the big lawsuit years ago. The EU now complains that MS are breaking that deal.

Yes but the browser choice still happens, taking up the entire screen not just some of it like with 7. So I don't see why it's anti-competitive? They're still giving everyone the choice.
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