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New MS Windows is prepared for the worst

A CHECK box deep in the guts of Microsoft Corp's next version of Windows hints at how the software maker plans to keep European antitrust regulators from marring a crucial software launch.

Windows 7, the successor to the much-maligned Vista, isn't expected to reach consumers until next year but more than a million people are already testing early versions. A pair of bloggers tinkering with settings stumbled upon one they hadn't seen before: the ability to "turn off" Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser.

Microsoft lost a long-running battle with EU antitrust regulators in 2007 over the way it bundled media player software into the Windows operating system.

The dust had barely settled when a similar claim was filed, this time over Explorer's place inside Windows. Opera Software ASA, a Norwegian competitor, claimed the practice gives Microsoft's browser an unfair advantage.

In a preliminary decision in January, the EU agreed.

In the media player dispute, the EU heavily fined Microsoft and forced it to sell a version of Windows without the player. This time Microsoft appears to be offering the check-box solution as a way to head off a similar ending.

The check boxes also allow users to disable the media player and hard-drive search programs, which have drawn scrutiny from regulators.


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