The browser ballot is officially called the Choice Screen.
The European Union hasn't been looking too kindly on Microsoft and its supposed anticompetitive acts in bundling Internet Explorer in with Windows. But today, the European Commission has settled its dispute with Microsoft after the world's largest software maker agreed to implement changes in how its Windows OS integrates the browser.
The European Commission today announced that it adopted a decision that renders legally binding commitments offered by Microsoft to boost competition on the web browser market starting March 2010.
The accepted decision, of course, is that Microsoft will provide a "choice screen" where Windows users will be able to pick between Opera, Chrome, Safari, Firefox, AOL, Maxthon, K-Meleon, Flock, Avant Browser, Sleipnir, Slim Browser and Internet Explorer. As many of Microsoft's competitors requested, the choice screen will feature browsers in a randomized order.
European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: "Millions of European consumers will benefit from this decision by having a free choice about which web browser they use. Such choice will not only serve to improve people's experience of the internet now but also act as an incentive for web browser companies to innovate and offer people better browsers in the future."
Under the commitments approved by the Commission, Microsoft will make available for five years in the European Economic Area (through the Windows Update mechanism) a choice screen enabling users of Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 to choose which web browsers they want to install in addition to, or instead of, Microsoft's browser Internet Explorer. The commitments also provide that computer manufacturers will be able to install competing web browsers, set those as default and turn Internet Explorer off.
A clause in the commitments allows the European Commission to review the commitments in two years. Microsoft will report regularly to the Commission, starting in six months' time, on the implementation of the commitments and under certain conditions make adjustments to the choice screen upon the Commission's request.
If Microsoft were to break its commitments, the European Commission could impose a fine of up to 10 percent of Microsoft's total annual turnover without having to prove any violation of EU antitrust rules.