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Over at Ars, there’s a whole article about what a big deal it is that Microsoft will be shipping Windows 7 to EU members without IE8 installed, instead giving users a “voting screen” in which they can choose from up to 10 different browsers. On top of that, Microsoft will roll out the voting screen to Vista and XP as updates as well.

But I’m not sure that it’s as big of a deal as Ars’ Emil Protalinski thinks it is.

You can read all about the mechanics of how the voting screen will work, as well as its limitations in the article I linked to above, but my thinking on it is this: Any browser that’ll be part of the voting screen is freely available online anyway, which means that people who want Firefox, for instance, can just download and install it. So the voting screen is really targeting those consumers who, perhaps, are unaware that there ARE other browsers available or who, like my parents, don’t really know what the word browser means.

Think about that for a second…do you think people who are either a) unaware of the fact that they have a choice in browser or b) don’t know that the ‘browser’ is what lets them surf the web are going to choose a browser they’ve never heard of, when the ‘blue e with the thingie around it’ is familiar to them and staring them right in the face?

The only part of this whole situation that does seem, at least in theory, like a big deal is the fact that PC manufacturers selling in the EU can choose to include browsers other than IE8…and choose to NOT include IE8…on new machines. That has the potential to be significant, but again, are they going to risk giving less tech-savvy users an unfamiliar experience? The netbook craze has shown us that, even with the prospect of saving $50 off of an already inexpensive computer, users would still rather have XP than Linux because they already know it and are familiar with it.

Granted in that example, there’s also the issue that a netbook running Linux instead of XP won’t run any Windows software out of the box, but I still think that the vast majority of average PC consumers are going to choose IE8 on that voting screen anyway.