Microsoft apologises over Windows 8 browser ballot gaffe

October 25, 2012 // 11:37 a.m.

Tags: #antitrust-regulation #article-9 #browser #browser-ballot #ec #eu #european-commission #european-union #internet-explorer #microsoft #windows-8

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.'

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