In the wake of various antitrust cases brought against it in Europe, Microsoft won't be shipping the Internet Explorer browser in the European release of Windows 7. Minor change that this is, does it indicate that IE is really on its last legs?
When Europeans go to buy a copy of Win7 this October, they'll install it and find it devoid of the famous Windows browser—but that's only if they buy a copy directly off the shelf. OEMs who package Windows 7 as the OS on their new computers can choose to chuck a copy of IE on a disc into the deal if they wish, and it's obvious that Microsoft would quite like them to do that—so buying a new Windows computer will be essentially the same, with the additional step of installing a browser.
That sounds like quite a minor change, but it will do one thing: It'll make consumers aware of the choice of options out there, as they have to directly choose which browser to go for. And that's precisely what the European lawmakers wanted. It's a move mainly directed at the average Joe home PC user who tends to use just the one browser.
But there's another potential implication—it may be a sign that IE's position as most favored browser is slipping. Recent stats have shown that IE's market share is definitely on a downward slide. In April it had just 66% market share, which is a far cry from the days when it had nearly all of the market. That's due to competition from Firefox, Chrome, and Apple's increasing successes with the Safari browser. And its also due to the fact the Internet Explorer is a bit of a mongrel—technologically speaking, it's not quite up there at the cutting edge any more. The stats also predict that the slide will continue, and IE will have less than 50% of the market inside two years.
Would that be a shame? I'm not sure it would. Microsoft's been pushed to innovate IE by the newer browsers, but hasn't done a wonderful job. Maybe it's time that someone else's browser tech is the world's favorite, and perhaps the European regulations will just hasten that process a bit.