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EU approves Microsoft's browser ballot plan

The European Commission is to market test Microsoft's browser ballot in the hopes it encourages competition.

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The European Commission has said Microsoft's plans to end its own dominance of the browser market are a "very satisfactory resolution".

Facing a fine from the EU, Microsoft suggested a "browser ballot" system which would see its users presented with a page advertising other browsers.

"The Commission's preliminary view is that Microsoft's commitments would indeed address our competition concerns," said Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner for Competition Policy, at a press conference.

"Microsoft's proposal in particular recognises the principle that consumers should be given a free and effective choice of web browser," she added. "It would empower all current and future users of Windows in Europe to choose which browser they wished to use. It would therefore have a direct and immediate impact on the market."

She added that the so-called browser ballot had already been informally tested over the summer. The commission asked Microsoft for a few changes, which the software giant has since delivered.

In her speech, Kroes unveiled a few more details about the browser ballot plan. It will be in place for five years and promote the 12 most widely used web browsers for Windows systems, based on their use in EU countries.

She added that PC manufacturers will also be able to set competing web browsers as the default on future Windows-based machines - including those running Windows 7 - and disable IE, without facing discrimination from Microsoft.

Kroes noted that the commission retains the right to tweak the system in the future.

Starting today, the commission will be asking for feedback on the browser ballot system. If it's approved, it will roll out within two months, she added.

In a statement, Microsoft's General Counsel Brad Smith said: "We welcome today's announcement by the European Commission to move forward with formal market testing of Microsoft's proposal relating to web browser choice in Europe."

He also unveiled changes to a proposal to promote interoperability in products like Windows, Office and more. Smith said the firm would "adopt suggestions from competitors to strengthen Microsoft's obligations to publish documentation about the company's interoperability technology."

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