Microsoft may make it possible to uninstall Internet Explorer 8 from Windows 7, a move that would go a long way toward alleviating the software giant's European regulatory headaches.
Bryant Zadegan, chief editor of the Microsoft blog AeroXperience, notes that this change wasn't part of Windows 7 Beta 1, and said the odds are "quite high" that it'll be part of the Windows 7 Release Candidate, which many Microsoft watchers expect will arrive in April.
Zadegan posted a screen shot of a Windows 7 dialog that let users turn off IE8 simply by de-selecting a check box and rebooting twice.
This only disables the executable running Internet Explorer 8, and the second reboot is likely when Windows re-maps IE8-related functions, according to Zadegan, who speculates that "this might've been the only way to do it without killing the rest of Windows."
Microsoft has long insisted that Windows and IE are tightly linked and separating them would be impossible. But the ability to functionally disable Internet Explorer in Windows 7 could help Microsoft prevent European regulators from adding to the $2.5 billion in fines they've levied against the company to date.
In January, the European Commission charged Microsoft with violating European competition law by including Internet Explorer in Windows since 1996, and gave Microsoft two months to respond to the charges.
Microsoft resolved this same issue in U.S. court in 2002, but the EC said Microsoft has yet to answer for its violation of European law. Microsoft subsequently issued a statement indicating its commitment to conducting its business in full compliance with European laws.