It looks like Redmond is backing slowly away from its previous IE-or-else stance on Windows 7 for European markets. According to an article just published, the OS giant has apparently caved to pressure from the European Commission over "monopoly abuse" (practices which essentially force users into Internet Explorer as their main browser).
The last we'd heard on this story, the company was considering shipping the new operating system without a browser altogether, but it looks like those plans have changed. Microsoft has relented and will now offer consumers a "ballot screen" on first boot, allowing purchasers to make their own (we're hoping informed) decision about which window into the web they'll be looking through.
Additionally, while Windows 7 will still include an install of IE, users will have the option to disable it, and computer-makers will also be allowed to pre-load any browser they see fit for their systems. We're glad that Microsoft is taking the inclusive approach here, though there are lots of good arguments against the EC's actions.
We don't see Apple getting the same heat for Safari, though Apple doesn't currently hold the lion's share of the market. At the end of the day, we're personally just happy to not be using IE -- no matter how you slice it.