July 18, 2012

Microsoft Reappearing Ballot Screen

Yesterday the EU Antitrust Commission opened an investigation with Microsoft, today the company delivered a patch (but oddly phrased). Very timely.

You might have heard that yesterday the EU Antitrust Commission opened an investigation with Microsoft, because the company "forgot" to include the so-called ballot screen (or Browser Choice Screen) in Service pack 1 of Windows 7, 15 months ago. In short, the EU has forced Microsoft to include an initial screen as you open a new Windows computer asking you to pick a browser, rather than coming with Internet Explorer. For example, I used it and don't have Internet Explorer installed on my computer, only Chrome. (PS. For the technical guys, the ActiveX for IE is there, it is only the browser user interface and application that are not installed.)

I first read it on SuperSite (even a Microsoft fan had to agree this is amazing), where Thurrott comments "Microsoft has already admitted that it isn't complying with the order. But the company claims this is due to a technical error only, not a secret plan to thwart antitrust regulations." Here is the official press release.  The EU says it takes compliance very seriously, and Microsoft seems to have released an official statement in December 2011 indicating it was complaint to the regulations, while it had not for 10 months. I don't see how the company can not avert fines that could be has high as $7 billion.

But this was yesterday. To my surprise today the company delivered a patch (among many others) including the new ballot screen:

Notice it says "which browser to install IN ADDITION TO Internet Explorer". This is wrong. The original idea was to install a different browser INSTEAD OF Internet Explorer, but I can understand it is impossible to replicate the original behavior later on. IN fact, developers using IE crearly don't want their navigation history and bookmarks to disappear.

After rebooting my machine, I saw nothing happening. So I checked the update was installed, and navigates to the knowledge base article for it, which redirected me to the properly named page:  http://windows.microsoft.com/en-gb/windows/what-is-the-browser-choice-update . As you can read there, the new application will be displayed only if Internet Explorer is your default browser. In this case, Microsoft goes all the effort of partially disabling it (including unpinning it), let's you choose, and you'll have to manually put everything back in place. This is quite impressive. An image of the page is below:

The other comment I have is this is very timely. Either they knew about the investigation in advance, or they were aware they were not complaint, or they built and approved the patch in less than 24 hours (which is possible given the money at stake, but still a bit unlikley).

 





 

3 Comments

Microsoft Reappearing Ballot Screen 

The patch didn't appear yesterday suddendly. It was 
delivered a few days ago (I saw it in WSUS when 
approving last monthly patches).
Comment by Luigi D. Sandon on July 18, 07:35

Microsoft Reappearing Ballot Screen 

Luigi, thanks for the information. So they knew and were 
working on it, at least before the EU issue became 
official. 
Comment by Marco Cantu [http://www.marcocantu.com] on July 18, 09:48

Microsoft Reappearing Ballot Screen 

 I use IE, but like having a choice of different 
browsers. Thx.
Comment by QualityCoding.info [http://www.qualitycoding.info] on July 28, 19:30


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