In January, EU regulators claimed Microsoft "shields" IE from competition by bundling it with Windows. Among possible remedies, the EU's Competition Commission said it might make the company cripple the browser if the user installed a rival, such as Mozilla's Firefox or Google's Chrome. "Microsoft could also be ordered to technically allow the user to disable Internet Explorer code should the user choose to install a competing browser," EU spokesman Jonathan Todd said in an earlier e-mail to Computerworld.
The EU's case stemmed from a December 2007 complaint by Norwegian browser maker Opera Software ASA, and has been joined by both Mozilla and Google as "interested parties" who are allowed to participated on the periphery.
Microsoft has declined to comment on whether the decision to allow users to remove IE8 is connected to the EU's case.
Other applications in the Windows 7 list have been the subject of previous antitrust action or complaints. Windows Media Player, for example, was one focus of a concluded EU antitrust case, and Microsoft gave in to demands made by Google to the U.S. Department of Justice in 2007 to change Windows Vista's desktop search tool. And in 2006, Adobe threatened to go to the DOJ over the "Save as PDF" command in the upcoming Microsoft Office 2007 suite; XPS (XML Paper Specification) is Microsoft's answer to Adobe's PDF format.
The option to remove IE8 is available only in post-beta builds, which have been restricted to a small group of testers. The company has been mum about the timing of the next milestone, although it has hinted it take the upcoming Release Candidate, or RC, public as well.
A pirated copy of Windows 7 Build 7048, which includes the new removal options, has leaked to the Internet. Traffic in the build has been brisk, with BitTorrent tracking sites such as Mininova.org claiming that as many as 14,000 copies have been downloaded.
Computerworld is an InfoWorld affiliate.