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European Trustbuster Welcomes IE8 'Off Button'

Official says Microsoft's inclusion of the feature in Windows 7 will promote software competition.
The former Microsoft monitoring trustee for the European Commission said the company's move to include a Windows 7 feature that allows consumers to easily disable the Internet Explorer Web browser will promote competition in the software industry.

Windows 7 screen shot
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"Microsoft did this off their own bat. From their perspective, making the operating system modular is a good thing," said professor Neil Barrett, in an interview published Monday by the BBC on its Web site.

"For competitors, this will allow them to compete on all fronts," added Barrett.

Microsoft typically bundles the Explorer browser with the Windows operating system. Windows 7, expected to be released later this year or early next, will include Explorer 8.

But the pairing of the world's most popular computer OS with its most heavily used Web browser has prompted cries of foul from Microsoft rivals and competition watchdogs.

The European Commission said in January that it's eyeing the possibility that the company is violating monopoly laws by failing to make its products interoperable with competitors' offerings and by bundling Explorer with Windows.

The EU has previously levied millions of dollars in fines on Microsoft for past monopoly violations.

But a Microsoft official, in a blog post Friday, said the company's decision to offer what is, in effect, an Explorer off button has less to do with competitive concerns than it does offering users more control over their computing environment.

"We've received a lot of suggestions about features that you would like to turn on or off using your own criterion for choice," wrote Windows 7 group program manager Jack Mayo.

To disable Explorer in Windows 7, users can access a switch within a folder called Windows Features that's part of the Control Panel menu, according to Mayo.

InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on Windows 7. Download the report here (registration required).