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Microsoft's IE Won't Explore the Old World

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Browser gets unbundled in Europe.

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Why regulators can never match the market's speed or smarts, chapter 999,999,999: Microsoft (MSFT) agreed to release Windows 7 in Europe without a web browser to avoid an antitrust squabble with the European Union.

But personal computer makers will be free to install Internet Explorer on Windows 7 if they prefer.

This drama plays out against Microsoft's declining share of the browser market. Net Applications reports that Internet Explorer has about 66% of the market; Firefox has 22%. Two years ago, Microsoft commanded about 80% of the market.

Meanwhile, Google's (GOOG) Chrome and Apple's (AAPL) Safari have moved aggressively into the browser wars. It's a good bet that Microsoft's share of the market will continue to decline.

So what's the need for government intervention? Maybe this: Someone has to feed the bureaucrats.

Last January, EU regulators thundered that including the browser in Windows probably violated European antitrust laws. Microsoft Windows runs about 90% of the world's computers.

Regulators were miffed that Microsoft included free applications in software packages that are sold at, you know, a profit. That's called bundling in the trade, and the practice is immensely profitable. It also benefits consumers.

Microsoft apparently has better things to do than dink around with bureaucrats in Brussels.
In a statement posted on Microsoft's web site, Dave Heiner, the software maker's deputy general counsel, said: "Given the pending legal proceeding, we've decided that instead of including Internet Explorer in Windows 7 in Europe, we will offer it separately and on an easy-to-install basis to both computer manufacturers and users."

Well, glad that's settled.

CNet.com reports that Windows 7 is expected to be generally available October 22, giving users plenty of time to scratch their noggins over the EU's latest effort to save innocent PC users from Microsoft, Dangerous Ogre.
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