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EC will force users to pick a Windows browser, says Microsoft

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The European Commission may force PC users to choose between Microsoft's Internet Explorer and other browsers when they set up a new machine.

That's according to Microsoft's second-quarter 10-Q SEC filing, which claims the Commission is considering ordering Microsoft and PC vendors to "obligate" users to chose their browser when setting up a brand-new machine.

Mandatory choice would be enforced by the Commission as a remedy to its preliminary findings - called a Statement of Objections - this month that Microsoft violated European competition law by including IE with Windows, a move that prevented other browsers from competing with IE.

Microsoft also warned shareholders it's likely to be hit with a "significant" fine by the Commission, based on sales of Windows in the European Union.

The filing went on to speculate on the possible technical ramifications for Microsoft and OEMs should the Commission follow through and force users to declare for a browser.

According to Microsoft, such a ruling might require that OEMs distribute browsers from the company's rivals along with IE on new PCs. Finally, crapware you can use.

Also, Microsoft might be required to disable "certain unspecified Internet Explorer software code" if the user chooses a competing browser. The company didn't go into specifics, but that's likely to mean preventing IE firing up when a user hits a site or application that would search for and open either the default browser or browser that came with the operating system. Hardly a huge job of work, as this already happens for Firefox users on the Mac, who've eschewed Apple's Safari.

The Commission's Statement of Objections follows an investigation into Microsoft's bundling of IE and Windows, which was sparked by a complaint by rival Opera Software in January 2008. Opera alleged Microsoft was continuing to abuse its dominant position by tying its browser to Windows and by not following web protocols. ®

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