It has apparently been revealed that Microsoft will not (directly) include IE with Windows 7 RTM in Europe.
This is clearly, on the surface at least, a plan to avoid litigation with EU authorities at the 11th hour towards Windows 7’s release.
This is different from making both Vista (inc. Media Player) and Vista N (no Media Player) available. There will not be a version of Windows 7 with IE include available in Europe.
To be technically clear, Windows 7 will likely still have the underlying APIs available (I’m thinking WinInet, .NET framework, etc) to do Web interaction, but just no general-purpose web browser application for end users. You can bet it will still do Windows/Microsoft updates for example and all other applications that talk to the Internet will still work (though any plain web-based help could have difficulties). I bet the ActiveX IE web control is still in there. Will IE 8 be an optional install appearing in Windows Update perhaps? 😉
The real benefit/plan for Microsoft:
This is likely the best thing Microsoft could have done… for Microsoft (not necessarily the consumer and especially not the enthusiast), instead of for example confusing the poor user with a choice on power-up of one or more competing browsers to download (or have many install packages already bundled) and then install.
This way Microsoft can at least rely on a user’s expectation (from previous versions) that Windows should come with Internet Explorer.
In fact who are they fooling really – well the EU authorities most likely – because this critical initial choice (for the majority of innocent new computer buyers) now goes from the consumers to the computer OEMs if Microsoft is provided them with kits to bundle IE8. Which major OEM is going to risk not putting at least Internet Explorer on their machines? Also, if the OEM does it, there’s no browser choice window but there can be a default! Which major OEM is not going to make Internet Explorer the default?
The likely end result – new machines in Europe go on sale with IE 8 bundled by the OEM as likely as the default browser. Clever, isn’t it!
The competition moves from the consumer to the OEM and we know Microsoft’s… skills there.
The consumer really inconvenienced by this is the European user that installs a fresh copy of Windows 7 themselves. However, a person towards the enthusiast end of the expertise scale will have no problem keep a copy of IE 8 handy. I wonder what happens if you do an upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7?