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European web surfers have rights, too

Millions of PC users in Europe will get the same browsing capabilities as their peers in the rest of the world, because they'll get Internet Explorer 8 with Windows 7. But it almost didn't happen.

European regulators have fined Microsoft for having abused its market position in browsers to crush the competition. For two months this summer Microsoft decided to bring regulators around to its way of thinking, by taking PC users and OEMs hostage. Microsoft's carefully considered remedy for complying with European antitrust law and still being able to ship Windows 7 in European-Union countries? Deliver Windows 7 minus IE 8 - a package called Window 7 E.

Weeks later, Microsoft put down the gun and let the hostages off the bus. It offered latte-drinking European socialist regulators a deal that would let Windows 7 remain on the right side of the law: a ballot screen that would let users chose rival browsers - a deal that looks like flying. After that, Microsoft killed Windows 7 E and announced pricing and upgrades available in the rest of the world would be available in EU countries.

Linux wants a piece of you, Windows 7

The open-source community's reaction Windows 7 ranges from the biblical to the urbane. Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth typifies the latter, welcoming a clean fight on netbooks, after Microsoft prolonged the life of Windows XP in the shadow of Windows Vista to provide a low-priced and functioning copy of Windows on netbooks against Linux.

From what he's seen, Shuttleworth actually quite likes Windows 7. "I'm not going to 'diss it", he told us around beta time in January. "We are in an awkward situation now because they are giving away XP in the netbook market - they are literally giving it way to OEMs," he claimed then and sticks to now... You can make the argument Linux is more expensive than Windows XP because Microsoft has been very aggressive in licensing." Shuttleworth plans to take on Windows 7 with Ubuntu 9.10, Karmic Koala, due next week.

The Free Software Foundation (FSF), responsible for GPL, went biblical with a letter-writing campaign listing Windows 7 sins. The letter wrapped up seven practical and philosophical points, but the organization might just as well have focused on two - support and pricing - as the penalty of buying into Microsoft's closed-source roadmap.

There will be ads

The time and money spent on the Windows Vista "wow" ad campaign wouldn't have paid for one of Don Draper's tiepins. Microsoft will spend more of both, on the TV and online, to drive uptake of Windows 7.

The signs are already there, with the generic Windows "laptop hunters" ads and its Rada-trained child protégés pushing Windows to hook entire families using its "I'm a PC" message.

Signs are, that the Rada kids will be back. Also, Microsoft's learned the lesson of product placement thanks to the carefully crafted barbs Windows Vista has received from comedian Steven Colbert. Microsoft's enlisted the pop-culture friendly Family Guy to penetrate psyches during our downtime.

Microsoft is desperate to be seen as being as cool as Apple in products and ads - hence The Family Guy placement. Just don't expect Microsoft to follow through based on the back tracking surrounding its IE puke ad posted online. ®

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