Late last Friday, the European Competition Commission revealed that they are assessing a new Microsoft offer to resolve their browser competition complaint. Instead of Microsoft’s earlier plan to ship no Web browser at all with Windows 7 in the EU, Microsoft has offered to provide EU users of Windows XP and Vista as well as Windows 7 with a "ballot screen" with download links for the 5 most popular alternative browsers.
There are more details in the attachments to the Microsoft press release describing the proposal, but the basic idea is to provide current and easy download and installation links for the Web illiterate who can’t manage to find them on their own. Congratulations to Microsoft for trying to sidestep the black hole of actually shipping third party code. The EU seems to have a much more positive view of this proposal than the "no browser" plan, so Microsoft may actually get away with it.
In case you wondering, Microsoft’s "no browser in EU versions of Windows 7" plan is still the plan of record until the European Commission accepts this new offer.
Getting far less press, but also significant was that Microsoft is also offering more interoperability information for its software including Windows, Windows Server, Office, Exchange, and SharePoint. That is spelled out in the attachments to the press release too and takes two forms:
The latter is apparently intended to address the second part of Opera’s original EU browser complaint that Internet Explorer was noncompliant with Web standards. It will be interesting to see whether this part of Microsoft’s offer will satisfy the Eurocrats, but I would bet that documentation of noncompliance will not be enough.
I also wonder whether "trustbusters" in the USA and elsewhere outside Europe might not also want to jump on the bandwagon and ask for the same terms as whatever settlement is reached in Europe.