IE8 Will Be Removable from Windows 7

Microsoft will expand the list of "features" that can be disabled when the Windows 7 Release Candidate becomes available, including the ability to turn off IE 8.

Microsoft will expand the list of "features" that can be disabled when the Windows 7 Release Candidate becomes available, including the ability to turn off Internet Explorer 8.

An expanded list of features that can be disabled was described in Microsoft's Engineering Windows 7 blog on Friday, including:

  • "Windows Media Player
  • Windows Media Center
  • Internet Explorer 8
  • Windows DVD Maker
  • Windows Search
  • Handwriting Recognition (through the Tablet PC Components option)
  • Windows Gadget Platform
  • Fax and Scan
  • XPS Viewer and Services (including the Virtual Print Driver)"

The ability to turn off these so-called features of the operating system isn't new. Windows Vista also has the same "Windows Features" checkoff box, which is part of the control panel in the OS.

The striking part of Microsoft's announcement is that the checkoff box lets users remove programs that Microsoft once argued were an intrinsic part of the operating system. For instance, Microsoft lost a November 2002 U.S. federal court decision over the company's contention that Internet Explorer was inseparable from Windows.

In January of this year, the European Commission issued a "statement of objections" that echoed that old U.S. complaint. The EC is taking the view that Microsoft has abused its OS monopoly to gain an unfair European Union market advantage in promoting its browser.

Some of the other features in the updated Windows 7 list have been subjects of disputes in the past. Veteran Microsoft watcher Mary-Jo Foley called those programs "litigation inspired," as if Microsoft has carved out a legal exit by making them removable.

Completely removing Internet Explorer has not been readily apparent when using the old Add/Remove Programs dialog box in Windows XP. Microsoft explained in the blog that it expanded the list of removable features in Windows 7 to give its customers greater control. However, not all components of a feature will get removed.

For instance, some shared elements, or "dependencies," will still remain after a program (or feature) is unchecked in the Windows Features dialog box. In particular, the application programming interfaces for those programs will remain. The APIs are shared-code components that independent software vendors rely on to interconnect their programs with Windows.

Another reason why the components aren't totally removed is so that users won't have to return to the Windows 7 DVD if they need them in the future, according to Jack Mayo, group program manager for Microsoft's documents and printing team, who wrote the Friday blog entry.

Some readers of the blog objected in the comments section over the inability to remove all components of unwanted programs. They want to slim down Windows 7 for installation on netbooks, which typically use low-capacity solid-state drives. However, you just can't remove everything because of the API dependencies, Microsoft says. Linux has the same problem, the team explained.

Microsoft has been positioning Windows 7 as a netbooks alternative to Linux operating systems. Steven Sinofsky, Microsoft's senior vice president for Windows and the Windows Live Engineering Group, claimed in the Friday blog post that "you'll see Windows 7 take significantly less space on install than Windows Vista."

However, some observers have claimed that Windows 7, currently available for review at the beta stage, won't be small enough to run on netbooks.

Microsoft announced its Windows 7 product lineup last month, including plans for a Windows 7 Starter edition that some accounts say will only be able to run up to three programs at a time. Possibly the Starter edition will be stripped down enough to run on a netbook.

Microsoft officials have recently been claiming that Windows now has an 80 percent attachment rate on netbooks, although those devices typically have been shipping with the older Windows XP operating system.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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