REDMOND, Wash. – July 17, 2012 – Under a December 2009 decision of the European Commission, Microsoft is required to display a “Browser Choice Screen” (BCS) on Windows PCs in Europe where Internet Explorer is the default browser.
We have fallen short in our responsibility to do this. Due to a technical error, we missed delivering the BCS software to PCs that came with the service pack 1 update to Windows 7. The BCS software has been delivered as it should have been to PCs running the original version of Windows 7, as well as the relevant versions of Windows XP and Windows Vista. However, while we believed when we filed our most recent compliance report in December 2011 that we were distributing the BCS software to all relevant PCs as required, we learned recently that we’ve missed serving the BCS software to the roughly 28 million PCs running Windows 7 SP1.
While we have taken immediate steps to remedy this problem, we deeply regret that this error occurred and we apologize for it.
The Commission recently told us that it had received reports that the BCS was not being displayed on some PCs. Upon investigating the matter, we learned of the error. We promptly notified the Commission of what we had found and took the following steps:
Distributed the BCS: Within one business day of discovering the problem we developed a software fix and began testing it. This was on July 2. The next day we began distributing the BCS software to the PCs running Windows 7 SP1 which we had missed, and we ensured it is available for all new PCs with Windows 7 SP1. We expect to substantially complete distribution of the BCS software to the PCs we initially missed by the end of the week.
Outside Investigation: We retained experienced outside counsel to conduct a formal investigation of precisely how the technical error occurred and to make suggestions to avoid any such compliance problems in the future. They have already interviewed Microsoft employees and are now following up with document review. They will continue to have access to all of our employees and documents and we have asked them to prepare a full report when their work is complete. They will provide this report to the European Commission.
Offered to Extend our Compliance Period: Since we have fallen short in our responsibility to display the BCS, we have offered to extend the time during which we are obliged to do so by an additional 15 months. We understand that the Commission will review this matter and determine whether this is an appropriate step for Microsoft to take. We understand that the Commission may decide to impose other sanctions.
The BCS provides an easy way for users to choose any browser. As agreed with the Commission in 2009, Microsoft uses our Windows Update service to send the BCS software to Windows-based PCs. Once installed, the BCS software checks to see if Internet Explorer is the default browser and, if it is, the BCS is displayed to the user. The Windows Update system uses “detection logic” to determine which software updates (such as the BCS) to distribute to which PCs. The detection logic for the BCS software was accurate when we began to distribute it in early 2010, and the BCS software was delivered as it should have been. Unfortunately, the engineering team responsible for maintenance of this code did not realize that it needed to update the detection logic for the BCS software when Windows 7 SP1 was released last year. As a result of this error, new PCs with Windows 7 SP1 did not receive the BCS software as they should have.
Since most computer users run earlier versions of Windows, we estimate that the BCS software was properly distributed to about 90% of the PCs that should have received it. We recognize, however, that our obligation was to distribute the BCS to every PC that should have received it. Therefore, we have moved as quickly as we can to address the error and to provide a full accounting of it to the Commission.