It looks like the European Commission and Opera have got their way and Windows 7 will now ship without a browser installed in Europe
It's fair to say that Windows 7 is now broken - Microsoft has said that its decision to ship Windows 7 without a browser installed means that it's no longer possible to upgrade from a previous version of Windows while keeping all of your settings, including your browser of choice. Instead, the European version (even the upgrade version) will require a clean install.
It's like a bad joke. It just isn't funny and is actually offensive. That the Commission think this is a good idea shows how far out of touch it is with reality in this instance.
Microsoft will still bundle Internet Explorer with Windows 7 - it just won't install it for you. Instead, it'll be on a separate disc, meaning that consumers who buy the OS at retail have to jump through an additional hoop to get onto the Internet to download their browser of choice.
Retail sales don't make up the majority of Microsoft's sales though - the lions' share of Windows licenses are shipped with new PCs and in that instance it's going to be down to the PC manufacturer to decide which browser (or browsers) to bundle with their machines. I would be surprised if many of the big OEMs move away from Internet Explorer - so what have the EU (and Opera) achieved?
In effect, all that they have achieved is to break Windows 7. The upgrade process can now no longer be described as that and anyone who would naturally install a different browser anyway now has to jump through completely unnecessary hoops.
Of course, Microsoft could include every browser under the sun in Windows 7 by default, but that means unnecessary clutter. Even Firefox execs admit that there's no good way
to do that. Microsoft could introduce a polling screen that allows the user to choose their browser during the first Windows boot, but even that is unlikely to make Opera happy because it would only be saved from being bottom of an alphabetical list by the presence of Safari.
So, EU Regulators and Opera, are you happy now that your work is done?