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Europe's new front in the browser battle

Rory Cellan-Jones | 12:45 UK time, Friday, 19 February 2010

From next week, if you're a user of Internet Explorer in Europe you may be asked to choose whether you'd prefer another browser.

The choices that millions then make will prove crucial in deciding the future direction of the browser wars.

The screen which users will see, headed: "An important choice to make: your browser", is the result of a settlement Microsoft reached last year in its long-running battle with EU competition regulators.

Under that deal, Microsoft agreed to provide this screen with a list of alternative browsers to Windows users who currently have Internet Explorer set as their default route to the web.

The screen will arrive via a Windows update, and users will then be led to a "kiosk" of browsers, including Google Chrome, Firefox, Apple's Safari and Opera, as well as Internet Explorer 8.

A quick glance at some recent statistics on the browser market shows that Internet Explorer is still well ahead with over 60% of the market according to this source, with Firefox on 24% and Chrome and Safari each having around 5% of the market.

However, another research firm puts the Internet Explorer market share in Europe at 47% - not that far ahead of Firefox at 39%.

But one thing is clear - millions of people who have never really thought about which browser to use will now be forced to make a choice, and that presents Microsoft's rivals with a unique marketing opportunity.

One company has already been getting its message out.

I was rather puzzled as to why Google's Chrome adverts had been plastered across Britain over the last few months - perhaps the only major campaign for a browser in advertising history - and now I think I may understand what that was all about.

Microsoft's opponents have long argued that their browsers are far more innovative, secure and user-friendly than Internet Explorer, and that only the market dominance of the software giant coupled with consumer inertia keeps it ahead of the pack.

Now Europe's consumers will get the chance to vote with their clicks - and we'll see just how much they care about which browser they use.


  • Comment number 1.

    I have been watching this and think the ability to choose is a good idea. I reckon most people will stick with what they've got. I know a number of people who wont have the first clue what to do when they are asked to choose and will probably just click on what they know... More than likely IE.

    Personally for launch speed I prefer Chrome just now. Although I do run Firefox and IE8 too.

    It'll be interesting to see if people do try a different browser though.

    Maybe the same thing should be done for Anti Virus software, at least that way people would install something. I'm surprised by how many people don't have any protection installed.

  • Comment number 2.

    I'd love to use Internet Explorer, but I use a Mac so I doubt I'll ever have the opportunity to do so :-P

  • Comment number 3.

    Interesting article. Competition is good, I hope. However recently I have had problems with Google Mail. It is exceptionally slow. It takes at least 2 minutes (sometimes more) to bring up anything. It took me 3 minutes waiting for the BBC's email to load, enabling me to register, in order to make this comment.
    I am not alone. Comments on Forums show that this is a common problem. Nobody, least of all Google, has provided a definitive answer. I wo'nt be choosing Chrome.

  • Comment number 4.

    What is this all about? I've previously used XP and now have Win7 installed on my machine. I use IE8 and Firefox 3.5 currently - using both enables me to have 2 facebook profiles (1 for me, 1 for mafia wars) set up, both as my home pages.

    XP also allowed me to use 2 browsers. There's never been a problem having more than one installed, as far as I can remember. So why do we have to make this choice now?

  • Comment number 5.

    Ahhh the lights come on, I've also been wondering why there have been google chrome ads everywhere, now we know.

    I like Chrome but I don't use it, ironically because I can't figure out how to activate features (if they exist) that Google put into Google Toolbar, namely the Autofill functions. So I won't use Google's browser because Firebox with Google Toolbar is better than Chrome.

    Unless anyone know's how you do activate this?

  • Comment number 6.

    One more thing, why isn't this blog linked through from the news story page? The blog is referenced but not linked. Perhaps this oversight could be corrected?

  • Comment number 7.

    I personally find this whole thing a bit ridiculous, the choice has allways been there ever scince the early days of search you could look for an alternate browser. back then the competition to IE was opera and Netscape among a few smaller ones.
    For people to only find choice when choice is "shoved onto their screen" shows a dire state of people using computers who really have no knowledge of them, i find this a shame.
    To force a company "to sell others goods" is a bit draconian and goes against "free enterprise". it all smacks of hypocrisy - ie: "you can be competative, unless you win .. then we will throttle you"'s a great shame people jump on success with such vigour to "bring it down".

  • Comment number 8.

    Jamie: I agree and I also understand that some people need spoon fed on things like this. It is a shame but the way computers are being brought into the classroom should reduce the need for this sort of intervention in the future.

    I remember the days of Netscape fondly until around 1996 then it all went wrong.

  • Comment number 9.

    Browser Wars.

    It's an odd phrase, isn't it? After all, what's to win? If your browser adheres to standards, then, by definition, the very best it can ever be is 'good enough'. Having a 'really good browser' is like being a 'really good driver' (Good, in what way? You haven't actualy killed anyone, yet?)

    Certainly, the browser makers can attempt to improve rendering speeds, or Javascript execution - but as far as being a brower is concerned, it is there in the spec: if your browser doesn't do what's in the spec, it's not a browser, is it? It's just a broken grey rectangle.

    So, a lot of what this argument is really about, is Internet Explorer 6.0: the broken grey rectangle.

    Having beaten Netscape into a bloody patch on the floor, and released version 6 of the browser, in August 2001, Microsoft deliberately (and very publicly) disbanded the browser development team at Redmond and, effectively, declared the browser 'finished'.

    That was it - non-standard rendering model, rampant security vulnerabilities, primitive interface, and all - that was as good as Browsers were ever going to get, as far as Microsoft was concerned. It took the company half a decade to revise that decision, and in that half decade, the Web was almost certainly held back, and prevented from becoming what it could have been.

    And that's the irony, because I really do think that the "it's finished - here, buy some Office Productivity software, instead" mentality is almost certainly now dead, within the Microsoft. Internet Explorer 6 was the last version to be tied directly into the heart of the operating system (an argument pivotal to the company's original protests, to the EU, and a decision that I am sure many in Redmond still curse, since it means that it is impossible to discover a flaw in IE 6 which cannot potentially also affect Windows, as a whole).

    Furthermore, the latest versions of Internet Explorer actually make a fairly decent fist of rendering web content. As browsers go, Internet Explorer is no longer The Broken Grey Rectangle.

    But like an old man in a crumpled suit - being asked to answer for crimes comitted, by a younger man, in another age - microsoft is being made to pay for things it has largely stopped doing and may never actually do again.

  • Comment number 10.

    2: Use a virtual machine to use IE.
    3: Thats not the browser, thats your connection. Google hasnt developed a browser that takes 2 minutes to load its own email page.
    4: You will still be allowed to use as many browsers as you want. I imagine the pop-up will only be for those that have IE as their default browser, and will change only their default browser, it wont uninstall IE.
    5: From a google employee: "Hey everyone, Thanks for all your feedback regarding this request. I just wanted to update you all that we are already actively working on implementing Autofill functionality that is similar to Google Toolbar. It's currently targeted for release with Google Chrome 5.0, so we're working towards getting it out to you guys. You can follow the progress of this request at
    9: The best thing non IE browsers have is extensions/add-ons. For example, adblock is a must for me.

  • Comment number 11.

    Competition is good, but why does the winner have to be penalised?

    I still don't understand why Microsoft working hard to produce an operating system which does well and then giving their browser away for free breaks competition rules. Yes, they have a big advantage over the other browser makers but that's because they worked hard producing and marketing the platform.

    OK, some of their marketing of Windows in the early days may have been a bit dirty but was it illegal? That's the nature of competition, and as you get bigger of course it gets harder to compete against but then isn't that just called success?

    I'd laugh so much if most people still chose to stay with IE8.

    Next up: Microsoft fined 2.000.000€ per day for giving away Notepad free with Windows, the makers of Notepad++ toast success with champagne....

    Then up: Mercedes in court for "forcing" drivers to use the pre-installed Bang & Olufsen car stereo?

    Or: Renault in court over breaking competition laws by including TomTom satnavs in the Clio?

    What about Apple giving away Safari with OS X? Will there be an option screen on all new installations of Snow Leopard giving people the choice of the OS X versions of Firefox and Chrome?

    Don't be silly...

  • Comment number 12.

    Most, will go which is best? As no one can say, (factualy, not an opinion). They will say if is not broken why fix it? Plus it takes time and effort to download, install and learn.

  • Comment number 13.


    I agree about the competition argument, but I disagree with it relation to Microsoft. The ONLY reason IE was included with Windows was to destroy Netscape. The ONLY reason it became entangled in to the Windows OS was to destroy Netscape. It wasn't to push technology envelope or advance the field of IT etc

    It was a purely profit-driven controlling action (indirectly - by controlling the browser Microsoft were effectively going to control the way people see the Internet). I firmly believe that if Microsoft still had that huge market share, then we would now have a disjointed internet whereby websites wouldn't look right on other platforms and in other browsers. That is the Microsoft way, and it's only changed now because they have to, not because they want to.

    This in turn leads to where we are now. The browser selection page is a bad experience for everybody - the IT illiterate have no idea what it's about (and don't care) and the tech-savvy already have another browser installed.

    To me, it's a prime example where a large enterprise has put profit and control over user experience - doing what they want instead of understanding a situation from the a users perspective to make their experience better. Apple get this right to a certain aspect, though they are not perfect

    You would hope that these companies would learn, but given the debacle with Google Buzz I dismay.

    Anyway, just my 2c's worth

  • Comment number 14.

    It's not so much forcing a company to sell others goods, but to address issues that have caused a monopoly to exist where there isn't a natural monopoly. If a company engages in business activities which restrict the market - say they force third-party companies integrating their products not to include anything other than their products - then the commission is rightly justified in forcing change. Now although this is a common thing in business, most businesses don't dominate a market in the same way.
    the issue I have with the ruling is that it only applies to Web Browsers, no mention of Calculators or Text editors - but then the competitors to Microsoft in those applications don't have so much clout in the market...
    Me? I'll still be sticking with Internet Explorer (as my main browser that is).

  • Comment number 15.

    Now Europe's consumers will get the chance to vote with their clicks - and we'll see just how much they care about which browser they use.

    Not much, I expect. I don't know anyone who has tried an alternative to IE and then gone back to IE, but they had to be convinced to try the alternative in the first place, and this will be the problem. Personally, I think Firefox, Opera, Safari and Chrome are all nicer browsers than IE, which I only ever use if I need to (e.g. when using my work's timesheet application). Thankfully it seems the days of websites which look ridiculous or just don't work in anything but IE are almost over, but web developers still have to include special sections in their CSS specifically for IE (even IE 8 is miles away from passing the Acid3 Test).

    It's high time Microsoft was forced into making IE compliant to web standards, but they don't consider this to be one of the "goals" of IE, which just shows the arrogance is still there. Will this make people suddenly flock to other browsers? No. The best we can hope for is a small percentage perhaps getting curious about the other browsers and switching, but I expect the vast majority will see no point in downloading another browser, even to just try it out. I can't see developers being able to forget about "quirks-mode" any time soon.

  • Comment number 16.


    "The ONLY reason IE was included with Windows was to destroy Netscape. The ONLY reason it became entangled in to the Windows OS was to destroy Netscape. It wasn't to push technology envelope or advance the field of IT etc."

    That may be so, but is there actually anything wrong with that? I'm not exactly a Microsoft "fanboy" so I don't want to get labelled as such for saying this, but to me that's just competition. Sure, I wouldn't like to be the smaller guy in that equation but that's just life sometimes.

    The way to compete is by having a better product, and by promoting it as such. If I run a shop on a high street and someone a few doors down opens a simliar shop selling the same stuff, then *of course* my aim is going to be to get people to come into my shop instead of his. As I'm sure his aim would be to get people to go into his rather than mine - healthy competition is good, and if I brought out the big guns to promote my shop then he should just bring out some bigger guns, etc. etc.! I wouldn't expect the town mayor to force me to put a sign in my window saying "you can also get the same stuff (possibly cheaper!) three doors down...."

    On another note - standards. Yep, it would be great if it could be law that all web browsers must be 100% standards compliant... that would be awesome. Would I be justified in thinking that most of the people who stand on their rooftops yelling, "Poor you, still using Internet Explorer? Use Firefox, it's 100% perfect in every way!" are in fact comparing their beloved Firefox to IE6? Hardly a fair comparison, as IE8 is a very good browser indeed.

  • Comment number 17.

    Well anyone that asks me what to pick, the answer is pretty clear, Opera. They are working on 10.50 at the moment, and it's the perfect browser (to be honest thou, Opera 10.10 was already pretty perfect). The latest Opera kills Chrome in benchmarks, it's more secure and web standards compliant than Firefox and Safari, and it's looks darn amazing.. it also works in harmony with your phone, whatever make or model it may be, there is a Opera for it.

    Firefox and Chrome may have the marketing edge and minds, but if you want quality and technology as the decider, then it's Opera all the way. All the recent features than the other browsers shout about have been standard Opera innovations for many years.

    If you want to check out the Opera 10.50 beta, it's on the Opera website, or better still help with the beta testing and pickup the latest snapshot at the Opera Desktop Team Blog.

  • Comment number 18.

    I am sure someone will tell me I am being silly but...

    Why did the EU need to insist on this. I can install a new browser any time I like in under 5 minutes (including loading time) all it takes is a quick google search and a couple of clicks.

    In any event I think the EU was completely daft. Microsoft clearly broke competition law when battling with Netscape but (as happened with cars and radios) we the customers then decided that OS's had to have a browser as a standard feature. That was customer choice due to tech developments. EU seems to have the view that because microsoft is the dominant player that they should not be allowed to add new features to the OS - and do not get me started on the media player fiasco becuase EU was even dafter about that.

    For about 4 years I have preferred Firefox but it is starting to feel a bit bloated, Chrome is interesting and as I havent used Opera since version 8 I might try that - Safari for me is hopeless

  • Comment number 19.

    I do think that this update from Microsoft is rather like shutting the stable door 10 years too late. However, I would say that 10 years IE was the best browser available and Microsoft's own incompetence has lead them to a place where IE is now seen as the worst.

    I think that this update will confuse many users, especially those whom are not technically literate (i.e. those whom the Alex computer on the previous blog is aimed at). However, for myself it is not a problem as I have recently ditched Windows for an iMAC and is refusing to install Windows 7 on it. I would say that I have got used to Safari, though I have noted that the performance of Chrome is so much snappier. Having previously used Firefox on my old computer, the only time I use IE now is at work where they still use IE6, which although having a broken image with regard to exploits, I still prefer to the horrible IE7.

  • Comment number 20.

    IE7? what about IE8? in order to have a fair and balanced discussion about the different rivals, we should only talk about the current latest stable releases, not past versions.

    (Apologies if that was a typo and you meant IE8 afterall...)

  • Comment number 21.

    Microsoft did more than simply give IE away with the OS.

    Two reasons why what microsoft did with IE/Windows was wrong and that this is a good thing

    1. They made the browser a fundamental part of the OS. Yes people have the choice to change to another browser, but did you know if you change to another browser you can't set XP to update automatically? Some people set up services to do this automatically for you if you didn't use IE but MS had them shut down. This basically meant that you couldn't have the safest up to date OS without having IE.

    2. They stifled innovation, as another poster commented, after sitting on netscape they left the nightmare that is IE6 as a completed product with no intention of improving it. This seriously stifled innovation and held back the development of the web. MS is a company that from the outset hasn't understood the web and so to have them controlling the window that people see it through has been a real hold up...

    I came across chrome on a public computer this time last year and was blown away by how fast it felt(I was using FF at the time). I installed it at home and haven't looked back after that.

    BTW aardfrith you can have multiple users for chrome, I have one for me, one for my wife and one for my business, they all load up the services I need with me already logged in....I think FF does that too.

  • Comment number 22.

    "but did you know if you change to another browser you can't set XP to update automatically"

    No, mainly because that's not true. The manual update site will only appear in IE, automatic updates are set from Windows Security Centre.

    As for integration with Windows, not really and certainly not since Vista. Of course, Vista and W7 still use Trident for a rendering engine but then OS X uses WebKit so it's pretty much the same thing.

  • Comment number 23.

    Daniel @ 15

    "I don't know anyone who has tried an alternative to IE and then gone back to IE"

    You do now.

    I have tried chrome, mozilla, even had a look at safari then went back to ie. I used to have the others installed, 'just in case' but not now.


  • Comment number 24.

    Me too.

    As a web developer I have them all installed, and various older versions on other machines etc., but for my day-to-day browsing I still prefer IE8.

    I think Chrome is the closest competitor IMHO - never really liked Firefox, especially with so many tech-unsavvy users who've been told by tech-savvyish friends that it's better going on and on about how amazing it is. It really isn't, I don't think. For that reason I use Chrome as the default browser on my Ubuntu machine, Firefox just wastes too much screen space on its default settings.

    I installed Firefox on my N900 but really stuggled to see the advantage over Nokia's own (Mozilla based) browser, so have reverted to the default.

    Another thought - will Chrome be bundled for free with Chrome OS?!?!?! *Shock Horror* I hope someone sues Google's @$$ for that bit of disgusting behaviour! [/joke]

  • Comment number 25.

    Agree with Justin and Paul - I don't understand what the problem is which requires this overkill reponse- it's an absolute doddle to install another browser if one wishes. I currently have IE8, FF and Chrome installed and use whichever one I feel like at the time - all are perfectly adequate for this regular but non-techie PC user. I also remember installing and using Netscape and Opera in addition to the pre-installed IE on my old, much loved 98SE back in the very early noughties so it can't have been too difficult to opt out of IE even then (I do recall that Netscape was a bit of a pig so went back to IE!)

  • Comment number 26.

    "As a web developer I have them all installed, and various older versions on other machines etc., but for my day-to-day browsing I still prefer IE8."

    You must be the worst web developer in the world with that attitude...

  • Comment number 27.


    Give the Opera 10.50 beta a whirl, it's nothing like the Opera of old. Opera has always been a great browser, with loads of innovations, however it's UI has always been dated. Opera 10.50 borrows lots of it's looks from Chrome, and it's by far the fastest browser on the planet due to some serious re-engineering under the bonnet (it kill Firefox at javascript, it's even faster than the current king Chrome).

    Thir mobile browser 5 is also pretty awesome.

  • Comment number 28.

    The problem is that most users don't know the development that is going on in the web world. New developments, like HTML5, doubts about the future of Flash, the need to support specific video and audio codecs... mean that your choice of browser is going to become critical.

    The best choice to make is one that supports the new web standards, not proprietary standards. IE still does not support the new standards, better are Safari, Chrome and Opera. So chose on of those. There is, for example, a good reason to chose Safari as Apple is firmly committed to developing the browser in line with every new and emerging internet standard, and they are a big enough company to support this. Same with Google's Chrome.

  • Comment number 29.

    It might be more to the point, in terms of internet security, to have a choice of operating systems.

    Competition between the browser providers seems to be pretty effective, with the consequence that as soon as one makes an improvement the others quickly follow. But competition between operating systems is stymied by the fact that almost all computer manufacturers pre-install Microsoft's latest product, and many peripheral manufacturers only provide software drivers for Microsoft's OSs, and some even refuse to release the information needed to write open source drivers.

    This lack of competition is damaging. It is largely responsible for the internet insecurity problem.

  • Comment number 30.

    Of course the oversized Elephantidae in the room is the countless reams of web applications that only work on one browser. Corporate internet portals, content management systems, internet banking sites, or just the site created by your next door neighbour who used some free internet tool or, heaven forbid, Word.

    No amount of EU badgering is going to change people's browser habits if those other browsers aren't compatible with the sites they need to use. Developers, understandably, concentrate their effort on developing for the majority player (that's where the money is), or the corporate standard, or the technical requirements (if it needs an ActiveX, it's got to be IE). It's not ideal but that's just how it is.

  • Comment number 31.

    26. At 1:09pm on 20 Feb 2010, JoeAD wrote:
    "As a web developer I have them all installed, and various older versions on other machines etc., but for my day-to-day browsing I still prefer IE8."

    You must be the worst web developer in the world with that attitude...


    Which attitude is that? The only attitude expressed or implied there was one of respect towards users' right to choose their browser, and a desire to ensure maximum compatibility possible across all platforms. That's the methodology of the "worst web developer in the world" is it?

    I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt and assuming you couldn't possibly have been so narrow-minded as to make that inflammatory comment with regard to my personal preference regarding my own personal browser usage.

    We all have differing views, and different reasons for these views. That's fine, and when it comes to choices such as these, no-one's opinion is "right" or "wrong" - it's personal preference.

    Let's play nicely, kids.

  • Comment number 32.

    I wondered what had happened to this - I was expecting to get Windows 7 without Internet Explorer or Windows Media Player thanks to the EU but it has been situation normal thus far - W7 laden with other MS stuff.

    Hopefully at some point I won't have to have Windows Lame! apps or MSN anything or Bling search engine or MS Office "demo" version present in any way shape or form - not even a single registry entry or file.

    The Govt and the EU collude with Microsoft and PC vendors to make us buy MS Windows on PCs so the least they can do is foster competition in applications software.

  • Comment number 33.

    Google Chrome Web Browser does not protect your passwords
    The only reason why I, and others do not use Chrome, is because it has no master password security setting
    There is a website where you vote to get Chrome to add this
    Without a master password security setting Chrome is a no go for users who want security
    Shame really as it's a great Web Browser apart from that ...

  • Comment number 34.

    People who use Windows have been free to download and install any number of alternate browsers to Internet Explorer for as long as alternate browsers have been in existence.

    The fact that people who use Windows seem to need to be made aware of this choice before they are capable of making it says an awful lot about people who use Windows.

  • Comment number 35.

    I use Netscape Navigator 9 on my Mac.

    Oh, I also use Safari, Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.

    Internet Explorer also runs fine on my Mac. But is slower and clunkier than all of the above.

  • Comment number 36.


    You can buy a PC with a completely blank hard disk and install anything you like on it.

    No one forces anyone to buy Microsoft software. Laziness = Convenience.

  • Comment number 37.

    @Phil Allen

    Chrome has bigger problems than that. you might want to read their privacy statement. In short, all your browsing habits are tracked and sent to Google to "improve your search results". It's certainly rather scary prospect if it's always watching your movements and reporting back...

    That's the pay-off from having a free browser, you sign up to lose privacy.

  • Comment number 38.

    For those of you that 'love' IE try this (it won't break you computer but it will annoy you, most likely.)

    First you need to also be running Outlook (not outlook express). Then power up IE and go to any web page then select send link from the file menu.

    Now here comes the bug - try to mimimise the new email window created - I've not seen a system be it XP, Vista or Win 7 that lets you minimse the new email window.

    Do the same of Firefox or Opera and the email windows minimises as you would expect.

    This type of close integration of IE into the operating system causes problems and really shows that a browser should not be part of the operating system.

    You can also try 'run' (from the start menu) >> (and type) 'mailto:' and hit return - the email window so created will not minimise if you default browser is IE it works fine if your browser is Firefox etc. - this is without apparently having IE running - but as it is part of the operating system it is running.

    Microsoft's marketing strategy is the cause of these bugs. If they had not closely integrated IE into Explorer these features might not have happened. There are interactions with MS Word too if you use Word as you email editor (under Outlook)

    PS this 'feature' may be absent in newer versions of outlook than 2007.

  • Comment number 39.

    if you want a browser then these are the options:

    good speed: chrome: lacks security
    good security and alright speed: firefox: lacks ultimate speed
    simple browser:IE8:lacks speed but alright security

    others like opera and safari are mediocre! so i suggest on a slow pc such as mine i use the 3 main browsers ie8 firefox3.5 and chrome4.0

  • Comment number 40.

    Not exactly new.
    I remember being given a browser choice when installing XP about 5 years ago.
    I had to check the date of the article at the top of the webpage.

  • Comment number 41.


    You might want to check your facts. The latest Opera is faster than Chrome, it's more secure than ALL the other browser having a very good track record of security, and it's the most suitable for older PC's due to it's small memory footprint (it also supports many older and obscure OSes too).

    A couple of links to back that up:

  • Comment number 42.

    John_from_Hendon - that must be your system, I've never seen this behaviour before on any system I've managed. Tried it just and could minimize and close and do anything i wanted.....

    "I don't know anyone who has tried an alternative to IE and then gone back to IE"

    I certainly have. I've used Firefox before and ended up with hoards of viruses and spyware cookies - reformatted, used IE8 and I haven't had anything since, touch wood.
    I'd never go near Firefox again. none of my family or friends now use Firefox becuase i've told them not to. Some use Opera and dome use IE.

  • Comment number 43.

    You can buy a PC with a completely blank hard disk and install anything you like on it.

    Oh yes? Try actually doing that with a laptop sometime.

  • Comment number 44.

    I use IE, Safari, Firefox and Chrome as I need to test websites. However despite all the adverts about Chrome it still doesn't work properly. 9 times out of 10 when I launch it the home page displays as "Page at Null cannot be displayed". This appears to be a known problem on the Google forums which doesn't bode well for larger numbers of users. At least IE & Firefox work without any issues even if there can be security glitches.

  • Comment number 45.

    _Ewan_ At 11:00am on 22 Feb 2010 said
    "Oh yes? Try actually doing that with a laptop sometime"

    I've formatted my laptop several times over the years.
    It's a computer.

  • Comment number 46.

    Yup, you just format the hard disc in exactly the same way as you would a Desktop Computer.

    There's no difference with it being a laptop. Laptops are still computers, still PCs, etc. etc.

    (Unless it's a MacBook, of course, then it's certainly not a Computer that is Personal... lol... silly techy terms)

  • Comment number 47.

    Formatting a hard disk is not the same as buying a computer with a blank hard disk.

  • Comment number 48.

    @Skashion - It's not entirely the same but it's as good as the same.

    EU legislation means that if you buy a laptop with Windows preinstalled on it, you can ask Microsoft for a refund and get a full refund on the costs of one OEM copy of Windows (usually about £70-80)

  • Comment number 49.

    James Baker

    No, it's not as good as the same. Nowhere near in fact. To get a refund you have to jump through hoops. People have had to go to court to get a refund. It's not a simple or easy process. It's so much of a hassle that very few people even bother knowing well in advance that the time and effort they have to go to probably isn't worth the money they get back. For the tiny minority who do bother, it's the matter of principle which drives them:

  • Comment number 50.

    I have a nice shiny computer,a laptop.It has loads of buttons and I do not know what half of them are for.I use firefox because it seems to be an easier browser system to use.Some contributors to this blog seem to look down on those people who use their laptops for simple things..e/mails ,sport information,communicating with their kids,educating themselves and much more.I am a complete moron when it comes to computer tech/talk and I am quite happy to be so.
    I have a choice of browser.I have had a choice for quite a while now.Everyone has had this choice for a long time and it is not going to make much difference to the vast number of people who use the home computer as a multifaceted social tool.Chill out...

  • Comment number 51.

    Skashion - Explain the difference, other than that a new PC has a hard drive that's never been turned on. As a computer enthusiast I've installed every OS imaginable other than mac OS, on many different computers, and can tell you a formatted hard drive is just as blank as a new one.

    I use linux, so have no problems with browsers. I use firefox, opera, epiphany (a simplified mozilla based browser), seamonkey (lightweight version of firefox) and sometimes, lynx (A text based browser). The 'Security with obscurity' idea is a joke, as IE6 and FF have the same (ish) market share, while IE6 has been exploited WAY more. Just like the fact that there are WAY more linux servers in the world, yet it's mostly windows ones that viruses are designed for.

  • Comment number 52.

    The difference being the 'Windows tax'. That was the original point being discussed. It's very hard to buy a machine that doesn't have Windows on. Not impossible, but the choices are severely limited. You can wipe the disk and install GNU/Linux, that's fine, but you've paid Microsoft for the privilege and very few people get a refund on their unused software as stipulated by the Windows EULA. It's so rare in fact that it makes the technology news pages if someone succeeds. This includes the BBC who had an article about someone who got a refund in 2006.

    Congratulations, incidentally, on your formatting of hard disks and installing of other operating systems and browsers. Such tasks would be beyond me.

  • Comment number 53.

    Computing for the masses... The average Jo goes to a shop and picks a reasonably priced PC. He doesn't know the advantages or the disadvantages of IE and just sticks with it. That's how my dad, my gf, etc use the PC. I hate using their laptops, IE is a nightmare to use. IE 8.0 is an improvement but still not compatible with my browsing habits.

    The moral of the story is, MS had it coming. The legality of the EU legislation might be open to debate, but I do not feel sorry for MS.

  • Comment number 54.

    I find all this a bit bizarre. You've always been able to set a different default browser to IE. And downloads for all the other browsers have been advertised on the internet - particularly Firefox - for years as well. Is there really a group of computer users so hopelessly incapable of browsing the internet that they have to be told by a special popup screen that there are other browsers to choose from? And... does it matter what they use? They don't appear to be capable of reading anyway, else they'd already know.

    On top of this I still find it somewhat bizarre that Microsoft apparently has to be nice to it's competitors, and, now, even advertise them. I don't recall ever walking into, as a wild example, a Ford dealership and being told perhaps I'd rather buy a Vauxhall...

    That said, as a web developer, the sooner IE loses it's market share, the better.

  • Comment number 55.

    "The difference being the 'Windows tax'. That was the original point being discussed. It's very hard to buy a machine that doesn't have Windows on."

    That's not exactly down to MS, though, is it? I mean, is anyone really suggesting that MS sends the heavies round to Dell and forces them? No. Dell are aware that they make more money by shipping with Windows preinstalled - MS are aware that they make more money by Dell shipping with Windows preinstalled - everyone (except perhaps the consumer... though the more savvy of us can always just build our own, anyway, and the more daring can do so too, since it's not exactly difficult) is happy.

    Well, corporately.

  • Comment number 56.

    "Just like the fact that there are WAY more linux servers in the world, yet it's mostly windows ones that viruses are designed for."

    Factually accurate but with a glaring omission: Linux servers are actually attacked more often than Windows servers. Have been for years, now. The difference is just the method.

  • Comment number 57.

    Yes, windows servers are attacked via viruses and programming bugs, and linux ones via sloppy firewall configuration, open SSH/telnet ports, bad passwords etc. It's programming error verses operator error.

  • Comment number 58.


    Not down to Microsoft? So you don't think Microsoft cares one bit whether or not an OEM pre-installs Windows on a PC? Even assuming that it doesn't see GNU/Linux as a threat on the desktop - despite Bill Gates declaring 'jihad' on GNU/Linux, what it certainly does see as a threat is people installing pirated versions of Windows on their machines. This reflects itself in Microsoft's business practices through its contractual agreements with OEMs and vendors - which have been the subject of plenty of tech articles down the years.

    Here are some links you may want to look at:

    Pages of particular note are pages thirty-four through to fifty. This case was settled out of court incidentally and was backed by stacks of evidence including Microsoft's Windows License Agreement with Dell:

    To see Bill Gate's use of the word jihad in relation to Linux, this link provides a number of Microsoft's internal emails regarding their attempts to disrupt Intel's projects involving Linux:

    Happy reading.

  • Comment number 59.

    Oh yes? Try actually doing that with a laptop sometime.

    Um, my MacBook Pro came with a 120GB hard disk. I took it out and put a 500GB hard disk in. It took 5 minutes to get a new laptop with a new blank hard disk. That was 3 years ago and it's still purring nicely.

  • Comment number 60.

    Martin is yet another person who has missing the point. It's not a technical comment about whether you can format a hard drive, replace a hard drive which came with the computer with a blank OEM hard drive or even build a new PC/hackintosh with a blank OEM hard drive. All these things are perfectly possible. The point was that it's hard to buy a PC without Windows pre-installed from an OEM or vendor. Try going into PC World. You maybe shocked to find out that the vast majority of them ship with Windows. If you care about paying the 'Windows tax' then it severely limits your hardware options because if you ask them to sell you the PC or laptop you actually want without Windows, they simply will not do it. This leaves you the option of buying Linux-based netbook - and probably one with a tiny SSD.

  • Comment number 61.

    ^ *missed the point* ^

  • Comment number 62.

    Oh god.

    So now more "if" statements in design code.

    So you write W3C compliant code, yet firefox renders the site differently to I.E. A mystical indent here, a badly coordinated graphic there. Both browser developers say that their browsers are compliant. Clearly they'd be rendering in exactly the same way if they were, they aren't.

    CSS was meant to help... Oh no....

    Looking forward to the confusion...

  • Comment number 63.

    And yes, Microsoft have definitely scuppered the Intel graphics drivers for Linux... If you want more than 800 x 600 resolution, you're going to have to compile your own...

  • Comment number 64.

    The funny thing is that on legal equality principle, Apple Macs should now present just similar browser choice screen, instead of just preinstalling only Safari by default...

    As someone who has used mostly IE from the halcyon days of the net - and Mosaic rather than Netscape before that the only ever security problems with IE has come via Sun Java in full sandbox mode. The thing with every computer running any OS is always installing only what you need and passing any installs offered by any website unless some more thorough inspection is done first.

    On security front Linux and Mac are giving false sense of security to the users claiming to be more secure but either being pretty hard to update (Linux) or having the really dangerous parts removed from the view of 99% of the users (Mac). And claiming to be secure gives the users false feeling of not needing any kind of updates or anything - As the system was promised to be more secure than Windows. At least Microsoft actively addresses and talks aboput the security issues, based on security lists the ones hitting Macs or Loonixes are brushed under the carpet in total silence...


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