Blogosphere: Windows 7’s removable IE8

Microsoft Corp.’s ongoing monopoly-related legal issues have been much less costly in North America than they have in Europe, where the European Union has slapped the software giant with fines and demands that it deliver versions of its Windows operating system software without bundling applications like Media Player and Internet Explorer. (Note that two of the coming flavours of Windows 7, the “N” versions, will install sans Media Player.)

So you have to take it with a grain of salt when Microsoft positions changes to the Windows 7 release candidate that allow IE 8 and Media Player to be removed from the OS as being about “consumer choice.”

Bloggers Bryant Zadegan and Chris Holmes, working in collaboration, broke the news of the removal tool in Build 7048 of the OS, with posts about an hour apart.

“There is a catch,” wrote Zadegan in his AeroExperience blog. “For now, this only seems to wipe the actual executable running Internet Explorer 8 (iexplore.exe), but given that many of the most vocal proponents of choice were just looking for an option to functionally remove IE8, this might’ve been the only way to do it without killing the rest of Windows. In addition, this actually takes two reboots and a configuration step to complete, so there’s definitely something going on behind the scenes (likely a remapping of where IE-related functions can be found for other elements in Windows so that Windows doesn’t complain about IE’s nonexistence).”

The tool is in the pre-existing Windows Features dialogue that allows users to turn features on and off. IE and Media Player are among features newly added to the list.

And it seems to work. Ed Bradford, commenting on Holmes post on his Chris’ Repository of Knowledge, wrote, “I run 7048 in Virtual PC 2007 and it runs fine. It is slower than XP though. I unchecked the “Internet Explorer” box and 15 minutes later, the operating system had rebooted itself and completed enough installations and configurations to be back to a useful state and IE8 was completely gone.”

The feature dates back to the early days of Windows’ 32-bit code base, wrote Jack Mayo, a Microsoft group program manager, on the company’s Windows Team Blog. “For Windows 7 we’ve engineered a more significant list of features and worked to balance that list in light of the needs of the broad Windows platform as well,” he wrote. “We want to provide choice while also making sure we do not compromise on compatibility by removing APIs provided for developers. We also want to strike the right balance for consumers in providing choice and balancing compatibility with applications and providing a consistent Windows experience.”

Windows Media Centre, Windows Search and Windows DVD Maker were also among the features added to the tool, according to Mayo. Mayo doesn’t allude to Microsoft’s regulatory problems, but Holmes does. “So there you have it, step in the right direction for Microsoft? And a quick solution to the EU’s argument against them? Time will tell.”

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