Various portions of the IT press are reporting that Windows 7 E Edition has been killed off. I sincerely hope so – it’s always been a daft idea created to satisfy bureaucrats in Brussels and the creators or a certain minority web browser that appears to be fighting a battle in the courts after its business model has failed – but I’m yet to be convinced that E Edition is completely dead.
On Friday, Microsoft issued an announcement about the inclusion of a browser selection ballot screen for European Windows users (note that this affects XP, Vista as well as 7). There are still some unanswered questions though:
- How will it be determined that this is a European installation of Windows? IP address (unreliable)? Product SKU (in which case E Edition is still required)? Regional settings?
- Will this just apply to EU member states? What about the rest of the EMEA region (Microsoft views Europe as EMEA – not just the EU) or even European countries that are not members of the EU (e.g. Switzerland)?
- Will this even satisfy the regulators? The EU Competition Commission has not fully approved Microsoft’s proposal and Opera (who brought the case to the courts) are reported to be unhappy about the use of icons to represent browsers. Apparently Internet Explorer’s E icon is synonymous with the Internet for many users (does that make it iconic!) and Opera would prefer an alternative solution (well, Opera comes after Apple Safari, Google Chrome, Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox whether you base the order on the alphabet or on market share… so I don’t know what would please them – a random selection of browsers perhaps? Please no!)
The dominance of Internet Explorer does not seem to have hurt Mozilla, Apple, or Google in gaining market share with their web browsers but it seems Opera still wants more – they want Microsoft to apply the same solution on a global basis (as well as Apple and Ubuntu!).
Maybe Microsoft will offer further concessions to the courts – I can’t help thinking that they have other things to worry about right now and their actions to date are designed to show that Microsoft has changed and, in doing so, to remove the danger of various anti-trust rulings. But has anyone considered that the potential impact of the browser wars is not really good for consumers? Competition is healthy. Web standards are to be applauded. Interfering in commercial markets because someone cried foul when no-one wanted their product should not be encouraged, however good the product may be.
So, is Windows 7 E Edition dead? Probably, but the key statement in Microsoft’s press release is this:
“Weâ€™ve been open both with the Commission and with our customers and partners that if the ballot screen proposal is not accepted for some reason, then we will have to consider alternative paths, including the reintroduction of a Windows 7 E version in Europe”
For those of us working on global Windows 7 solutions there are still some questions unanswered, and the 7E uncertainty may continue for a while yet.