A ComputerWorld story says that a leaked copy of Windows 7 allows IE8 to be eliminated although it appears that it only delete the file “iexplore.exe” which is the program windows use to call up the browser.
As far as computer technology goes, I am not surprise that iexplore.exe can be removed without affecting the rest of Windows. This is because I expected Windows Development team to do the sensible thing even though the business unit tells them to mingle internet explorer with the rest of Windows, i.e., making iexplore.exe perform only the plumbing to open up a browser. The actual function is probably contained in one-or-more DLL files.
Also, I do expect the business unit to tell the development team to “plan for the worst”. This is obviously part of their worst case scenario planning. What is interesting is this copy of Windows is a leak. It is possible that all public copy of Windows will have this function pulled, if only to maintain the facade that IE is an “integral” part of Windows. I can see EC competition committee glee in the knowledge that they can now ask to see that particular build if Microsoft comes back and says “I cannot eliminate IE”.
Is this enough to satisfy any possible EC’s decree on unbundling IE from Windows? I do not think so. If I can type in an web address on Windows Explorer and it brings up IE, then it means IE is not eliminated or disabled but simply hidden. While it is true that joe-average users will not be able to access IE if it is hidden, it technically still means IE is not eliminated.
Now that we know Microsoft at the minimum is experimenting with eliminating IE8 from Windows 7, it will be interesting to see how its legal team behave when it deals with EC’s complain on IE bundling. Are they still going to stubbornly insist unbundling is not possible?