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Microsoft spits out 'browser choice' update to appease EC antitrust probe

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Microsoft will begin asking European Union citizens which web browser they wish to use on Windows-based computers from today.

The software giant is giving its customers a choice of 12 surfing tools - including its own Internet Explorer browser - after agreeing a deal with the European Commission that has been probing Microsoft's business practices.

Redmond is pumping out a software update via its Windows security patches website. Users can expect to see a pop-up window prompting them to pick which browser they want to set as default on their PCs.

Norwegian browser maker Opera Software, which first brought the complaint against Microsoft tying Internet Explorer to Windows to the EC in December 2007, is included in the line-up. Mozilla's Firefox, Google's Chrome and Apple's Safari are also offered in Microsoft's makeshift ballot.

Whether millions of Europeans will take up the offer remains to be seen, however.

According to a poll by Mozilla last week, very few web surfers are aware of the new EC-imposed option to Windows users. And many non-IT-savvy-types might altogether overlook the pop-up screen and simply carry on with Internet Explorer as their default browser.

The open source organisation conducted a survey among 6,000 Europeans in France, Germany, the UK, Italy, Poland and Spain last week in conjunction with Ipsos MORI and published its findings on Friday.

"The results... indicate that nearly three quarters (between 70 and 81 percent) of internet users in these countries are not aware of the browser choice screen coming their way," claimed Mozilla.

Microsoft readied the update for XP, Vista and Windows 7 users. The pop-up window will only appear on screens where users have IE set as their default browser. So the ballot box won't be made available to surfers using, say, Firefox or Safari on their Windows OS.

According to the latest internet browser market stats from NetApplications, Microsoft's Internet Explorer pulled in more than 61 per cent of surfers last month.

Firefox trailed with a respectable 24 per cent, followed by Chrome with over five per cent, Safari with more than four per cent, and Opera hoovering up two per cent of the market. ®

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