To comply with the European Union's antitrust laws, Microsoft announced it will ship Windows 7 without the company's browser Internet Explorer.

To deal with the European Union’s antitrust laws, Microsoft plans to ship Windows 7 in Europe without the company’s Internet Explorer Web browser.

The move comes in response to a complaint filed in 2007 with the European Commission by Opera, the Oslo, Norway-based browser developer. Opera claimed that Microsoft illegally bundled Internet Explorer with the Windows operating system.

That case is pending and a decision could come soon. The commission, the executive branch of the European Union, issued a preliminary ruling in January that Microsoft had violated European competition law by including Internet Explorer in Windows since 1996.

“Given the pending legal proceeding, we’ve decided that instead of including Internet Explorer in Windows 7 in Europe, we will offer it separately and on an easy-to-install basis to both computer manufacturers and users,” said Dave Heiner, Microsoft’s vice president and deputy general counsel, in a statement posted on a company blog on legal issues.

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Internet Explorer rivals in the browser market include Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari and Google Chrome, as well as Opera. While Microsoft continues to dominate 65.5 percent of the market, according to a Net Applications May report, its share has eroded over time with the growing popularity of Firefox. In 2004, Microsoft had 90 percent of the browser market.

Windows 7 will come with Internet Explorer 8 on PCs sold outside of Europe.

Microsoft has said Windows 7 will be available in stores on Oct. 22. To make sure it’s available on computers for sale, the company expects to ship final copies of the operating system to computer makers by the end of July.

On Thursday, Heiner said in the company’s statement that Microsoft stripped the operating system of any browser to make sure it would ship on time.

The European Commission has suggested that Windows 7 include browsers made by Microsoft’s competitors, or offer users a choice.

Michael Cherry, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, an independent-analyst firm in Kirkland, said going without a browser was probably the simplest way to comply with European antitrust rules and make the shipping deadline.

“If you’re going to include every other browser manufactured, you would have to collect versions of those browsers and get them into the product,” Cherry said. “By the time you ship you could be shipping something out of date.”

In May, Microsoft canceled a presentation of its defense scheduled for June 3-5, citing a conflict with an antitrust conference scheduled in Switzerland at the same time.

The European Commission said Thursday it would issue a ruling shortly, according to a report from Bloomberg.

Sharon Pian Chan: 206-464-2958 or