Microsoft ditches European version of Windows 7

Windows 7 box

Europe is to get the same version of Windows 7 as the rest of the world as Microsoft has abandoned plans to release an edition without the Internet Explorer browser to appease European Commission competition regulators.

The change comes after new plans to introduce a "ballot screen" which would offer customers a choice of browser at installation. That method will now be used rather than releasing Windows 7 E versions.

"We believe this approach addresses the Commission's previously stated competition law concerns regarding our inclusion of Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) browser in Windows, said Microsoft's deputy general counsel Dave Heiner in a blog post.

Concerns from manufacturers and vendors also drove the turn-around, Heiner admitted. "Several worried about the complexity of changing the version of Windows that we ship in Europe if our ballot screen proposal is ultimately accepted by the Commission and we stop selling Windows 7 E," he wrote.

"Computer manufacturers and our partners also warned that introducing Windows 7 E, only to later replace it with a version of Windows 7 that includes IE, could confuse consumers about what version of Windows to buy with their PCs," he added.

In fact, the European Commission itself wasn't too keen on the Windows 7 E tactic, Heiner said, explaining the regulator wanted consumers to have a choice, rather than to not be supplied with a browser at all.

Heiner noted that the Commission was much happier with the ballot plans, but said they still needed to be fully approved and if they aren't, then Windows 7 E might return.

What about pre-orders?

The change raises issues about pre-order sales. Microsoft has already started selling Windows 7 E indeed as our sister title PC Pro reports, many retailers are still selling them.

Because it was shipping without a browser, Microsoft was only offering full versions in Europe, as opposed to also offering just an upgrade. Because of that, Microsoft has been selling the full version at a reduced price.

However, this could allow the Family Pack - which gives three copies of the OS for one household at a reduced price - to come to the UK sooner, as it is seen as an upgrade by Microsoft.

Microsoft was not available for comment at the time of writing.

It's the second Windows 7 u-turn in a week for Microsoft. The software giant originally said it would not give a free copy of the new OS to beta testers, but has since decided it will.