AFP - Microsoft has agreed to open up Windows to different Internet browsers in order to fend off European Union litigation, the European Commission announced Friday.
"Microsoft has proposed a consumer ballot screen as a solution to the pending antitrust case about the tying of Microsoft Internet Explorer web browser with Windows," said a statement.
It said computer users would be able to "easily install competing web browsers, set one of those browsers as a default, and disable Internet Explorer" from the ballot screen.
The commission, Europe's top competition watchdog, opened a new front in its epic anti-trust battle with Microsoft in January.
It hit the company with fresh charges of unfairly squashing competition by bundling its Internet Explorer web browser into its ubiquitous Windows personal computer operating system.
Under the plan, rival browsers including Firefox (Mozilla), Google's Chrome or Opera by Norway's Opera Software will now be placed before consumers at the point when they set up a new computer's operating preferences.
"The Commission welcomes this proposal, and will now investigate its practical effectiveness in terms of ensuring genuine consumer choice," the statement added.
Microsoft on Wednesday declared its next-generation Windows 7 operating system ready for delivery to computer makers.
More than 10 million people joined in testing Windows 7 software in a voluntary test program, according to the US company.
Because of the regulatory wrangling in Europe, the Windows 7 version going on sale there was originally to have seen Internet Explorer, Microsoft's Web browser, completely removed.