How do I get a browser if Microsoft unbundles IE?

I notice that a lot of people people are wondering how they are going to be able to install a browser if IE is removed from Windows by default. This is a good question, but the answer is fairly straightforward.

If I am not mistaken, most Windows installations are not direct Windows purchases, but rather OEM versions preinstalled on new computers. In other words, the vast majority of Windows installations will come with the OEM's browser of choice, rather than Microsoft forcing all OEMs to stick with IE as they have been doing.

Then there's perhaps a smaller group which will install Windows manually. There are several possible solutions for this group, such as offering a way to download any browser through some kind of portal the first time you connect to the internet (most Linux distributions have package managers, so why not Windows?), supplying separate disks containing the browser(s), and so on.

For the vast majority of people, I don't see that this will become a problem since they will simply use the browser the OEM decided to bundle. And with antitrust regulators breathing down Microsoft's neck they won't be able to force OEMs to bundle IE anymore.


24 thoughts on “How do I get a browser if Microsoft unbundles IE?

  1. Uhm, FTP or install from a DVD? I believe that I installed Netscape Navigator from floppies to get a browser on Windows for Workgroups 3.11 back in the mid-1990s. We used to hand them out to students back at the university. I even wrote a small program to span Netscape onto four floppies due to its size. I wonder where that program is now? (We didn't hand out Opera, even if it fit one floppy, since it was shareware, while Netscape was free for educational use)I was facing a similar problem trying to get Opera on a newly installed Windows 95 (pre-Internet Explorer) back around that time. I had an FTP client, but Opera was only downloadable over HTTP, so I had to use FTP to download Netscape Navigator first, to then download Opera 2.12.

  2. That's a good point, Mickeyjoe_irl. I still think the vast majority of people will get one through the OEM, though.

  3. AFAIK, most router configuration is done through a web page. If you can no longer guarantee that a PC will already have a browser installed it makes sense to include one. It will be interesting to see if any browser companies pick up on this and start approaching the ISPs. 😉

  4. So if the OEMs can bundle whatever browser they want as the default browser, what benefit will come out of forcing MS to offer Windows without IE? Windows XP N edition was a waste. Why would this be any different? I believe the important point is that Microsoft does not bar OEMs from preinstalling competing browsers, and they haven't for a while already.

  5. IE can not be totally removed from Windows. What Microsoft will do is to remove its interface, yet engine will be inside, since a lot of software requires it. So what's the problem? Just type in your Windows Explorer!

  6. It's extremely unlikely that Microsoft will be able to completely remove all traces of IE from Windows, because the IE platform is used for a lot of the software that comes with Windows (Media Player, Vista gadgets, Windows XP SP2 security center, CHM help files…) and for a lot of other software (Norton AntiVirus, Google Talk, Miranda, Microsoft Outlook 2003 for reading HTML mail…). And really, that's fine, because as long as bundled IE platform is marketed as an application platform, not a web browser, it's not really competing with Opera, Firefox, Chrome, etc. I'm all for web standards, but I also don't want to break a lot of Windows software that depends on the IE platform.Because the IE rendering engine probably has to stay in Windows, Microsoft should include a barebones browser based on it with Windows. This browser would have very limited features…it would not support bookmarks/favorites, a search box, printing, offline mode, cacheing, history, tabs, and many other "nice-to-have" features. All it really needs to have is a Back button, a Forward button, a Refresh button, an address bar, and the ability to download files. The browser will be crippled enough that nobody would put up with it for regular day-to-day use, but it still would be capable enough for it to be easy to get a full-featured browser.This minimalist browser would empower users to go download the browser of their choice – Internet Explorer, Opera, Firefox, Chrome, or whatever. None of those choices would be given preferential treatment in Microsoft's retail and default OEM configurations of Windows (e.g. Microsoft cannot make the default homepage of the simple browser be a page that promotes Internet Explorer). Instead, browser makers could run their own marketing campaigns that advise users on how to get their browsers using the simple browser built into Windows (TV ads, pamphlets bundled with new computers, etc).

  7. Funny thought. Windows would be the only OS without bundled browser. Most linux distros come with one, Mac's come with one…This is discrimination! 😛

  8. Re: zomgThe difference is that nothings stops you from uninstalling Safari, Firefox, Konquerer, Iceweasel, etc. on those operating systems.Similar to what dbloom said, even on Linux many programs expect to have Gecko availible for usage and depend upon it, which is frustrating when I don't use FF or want it installed. Democracy Player used to do this, as does yelp, Ubuntu's help documentation program.

  9. I suppose nothing would stop you from doing that, but it's basically the same as cutting off your legs. The OS will become pretty crippled after that – at least with the case of Konqueror (or IE for that matter)

  10. Kai_Lapis: The benefit is that the OEM or user is completely in charge. Remember, Microsoft has broken the law here by, among other things, forcing OEMs to bundle IE. Breaking the law has consequences.zomg: As I said, breaking the law has consequences. And as I actually said in the blog post (did you read it before commenting?), computers would not come without a bundled browsers. OEMs will bundle the browser of their choice. The OS will not become crippled for OEMs because they will be happy to have the choice, and it will not become crippled for users because OEMs will always bundle a browser.Again, please read the blog post and comments before responding.dbloom: Microsoft would probably have to leave Trident in there, but they would have to remove the parts that make up the browser (user interface and such). Even a very basic browser isn't needed. Let the OEMs and ISPs take care of the browser.

  11. haavard: My concern is that if no browser is included, it would make it harder to get on the Internet after installing Windows, which would bolster Microsoft's original argument for bundling IE.As long as it is a super-minimalist browser (it doesn't even need to support Javascript), I don't see a problem including a really basic browser under Start/Programs/Accessories. For the same reason that MSPaint doesn't take market share from Photoshop, this basic browser won't really take any market share from Opera, Mozilla, or Google Chrome.

  12. dbloom: OEMs will do the browser bundling, so the vast majority will be covered by that. People like you and I always have various DVDs, USB keys, other computers, etc. to transfer a browser from.ISPs could easily supply new customers with a browser as well, the way they used to. You need to contact a company to get online after all, so that would be an easy and convenient way to get a browser for the rest of us.Not to mention all the magazine CDs and DVDs out there with browsers on them.

  13. I think the argument that people who build their own PCs will always have something to copy the stuff from doesn't make any sense.Sure – I have a bunch of computers at home. BUT NONE OF THEM WORK. How do I copy files from a PC that doesn't work? Oh wait…I suppose I could use my phone (thanks Opera! ;)) and download Opera with it and copy it to the computer using the USB cable. But why does it have to be so difficult?edit: no, I don't think I have any CDs with a browser on them either for that matter… but that gives me an idea…What stops MS from bundling IE on the installation media? Nothing! As long as it's optional. Why didn't anyone point this out? I feel stupid for not realizing this sooner.

  14. True, I suppose IE could be an optional program to be installed separately (not while installing Windows) from the Windows installation CD/DVD.

  15. If your running an OEM, fine, you can get a browser using the OEM bundled one.. If you installed windows yourself, you're probably smart enough to download a browser through a none-IE source..

  16. The point here is that there should be a shift in the way computers are sold. You should choose hardware, and pay for that hardware. Next, you should choose what to install, and pay a separate price for that.For browsers, the best option would be to distribute computers with a DVD containing browser installers which have been checked and are malware free.This should include an installer for IE, Firefox, Flock, Opera, and any other browser which is submitted. An alternative is to have a repository so that when you first connect to internet, the manager can allow you to choose from any software included in that repository.Sure, people will go with what's familiar – maybe Firefox, maybe IE – but the really lazy one's won't have any excuse to say 'well I just use normal internet that came with my computer'. That's anticompetitive – even if it's just a matter of choosing between the red and the blue icon.Even more interesting would be restricting the option to entirely Open Source softwares.I love choice – I have 6 browsers installed, and at least five of them are good, three are very good, and two are excellent. I don't have IE – I would never agree to the EULA, so I'm not allowed to use Windows. Sorry.I guess you guys didn't read it before you agreed.

  17. for someone living where i live, that would change a lot, me too i say windows will be crippled, since desktop computers are more 80% , and the vast majority of them are home assembled, i assume total percentage of ready-made computers provided by OEMs are between 0.005% to 0.015% , may be even less (most business and 'all' home PCs are manually assembled).so for desktop PC, don't rely on OEMswhere i live too, the only software you can expect from an ISP is a kiddy-like antivirus just to laugh what's wrong with installing software from another offline media, or downloading it directly from the internet once OS is installed ?for the latter, suppose user don't have internet connection, for the former that's not practical enough, people used to have all their basic needs from one installation CD.yes, mac OS X have Safari installed by default, but that happens to be OEM's browser of choice 🙂 , that's rather a more closed world.on the other hand, most linux desktop distributions trend to provide much more than user's basic discussed, like KDE depends on KHTML (actually KDEbase depends on Konqueror itself), like many software depends on XULrunner (that's containing Gecko of ff), like many windows components, supplementary features, and third party applications depend on Trident, so it is very unlikely that Trident will be removed from windows (unless MS wants to supply pressure on European court, based on its popularity, to show people how unfair the unbundle is, in their point of view, in other words to break windows down and play the victim role).I guess the most profit of the unbundle will not go for FF, Opera or Safari (of course they will profit), but that would make large profit for other Trident derivatives, like Maxthon and Avant, they will rise from the underworld up to IE level in user choice, with even more features.talking about software repositories (yeah, windows users still live in the dark ages), if that happened and microsoft implemented a decent package manager, which repositories will be configured by default ? for 'microsoft' windows don't expect it will be something like (not because the deb part, but because the opera part), it may be reconfigured later by user (don't tell me about OEM), or may be microsoft may be more open and tolerant for whom pay the price it put to be added to their repository, i guess microsoft can pay whatever it takes (to limit competetion) 🙂

  18. Khaled Khalil: Actually, I think the vast majority gets their computers pre-built and with the OS preinstalled. And in businesses, there are system administrators taking care of these things anyway.

  19. for business, you are right.also with "the vast majority gets their computers pre-built" by their small vendors (who aren't Microsoft partners for sure)."and with the OS preinstalled" that bring me to talk about how wildly pirated software are popular here, if you got windows preinstalled, you should be sure that your copy of windows isn't legal, the vendor will not give you its license, that's something for free :)i still think most windows legally installed are installed by friends, relatives, neighbours of who bought the new computer, that's done in friendly air, so installing another piece of software will not hurt anyway, that's better for a longlife friendship 🙂

  20. I'm very confused.It is possible for Microsoft to compile a version of Windows tomorrow with no IE functionality – it would be extremely easy to remove, and later on to patch any bugs that might be caused.Arguments that OEM's can include any browser, so why remove IE, are rather stupid. The whole point is that Microsoft fights dirty and stomps on competition – it should be made a matter of pure choice. Opera and Firefox (along with whatever other competitors join the melee) are not both free – only Firefox is free – and so I want the choice, for me I am okay with both but have friends who won't use Opera.I don't want anything installed on MY hardware that I didn't personally ask for. I want a checkbox BEFORE I buy of things that might be included. I DON"T want it all included, and then have a checkbox list to remove things I don't want. That is not right, it is not fair, and it should be stopped – with the exclusion of free and/or open source software.

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