European antitrust officials shared the fact that Microsoft was offering to provide Windows users a choice of browser via the so-called “ballot screen” option as part of its settlement talks with the European Commission. Microsoft originally was dead-set against the ballot screen option; officials said the company would rather ship Windows 7 with no browser included at all than to ship one with a ballot screen.
There are some interesting tidbits in the fine print of Microsoft’s propsal. For one, the “ballot screen,” which Microsoft has said it will provide to allow European users a choice of browsers on their Windows PCs, isn’t for Windows 7 users only. Microsoft is proposing that it be allowed to provide the ballot screen to European users running Windows XP, Vista and/or Windows 7.
The ballot screen — which will include a list of browsers including IE, plus a number of choices from competing vendors — will be delivered to current and future XP and Vista users over Windows Update, according to Microsoft’s proposal.
Microsoft is advocating that the ballot screen include 10 or fewer of “the most widely-used web browsers that run on Windows with a usage share of equal to or more than 0.5% in the EEA (European Economic Area).” The choice of browsers should be presented “in a horizontal line and in an unbiased way” a display of icons and “basic identifying information” on the Web browsers. The top five of the browsers listed (by market share) will get additional “prominent display,” Microsoft is advocating.
XP and Vista users will get the ballot screen three to six months after the European Commission’s final ruling in the Opera antitrust case. For XP users, Microsoft plans to designate the ballot screen a “high priority” update when it pushes it out over Windows Update; for Vista and Windows 7 users, the ballot screen will be designated “important,” the proposal says.