There are several reports circulating the web that the latest beta version of Windows 7 will allow end users to uninstall Internet Explorer 8.0 (see blog articles here and here).
It should be noted that the feature appeared in Windows 7 build 7048. This has not been publicly released from Microsoft, but is available as an illegal pirated copy on certain file-sharing sites (obviously, SitePoint does not condone downloading, sharing, or installing the product). In the Control Panel’s “Turn Windows features on or off” dialog, Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) appears as one of the items you can remove.
However, Microsoft engineer and blogger Jack Mayo has now confirmed that IE and several other Windows components can be removed from Windows 7.
Removing IE has not been possible since Windows 95. However, the option does not fundamentally affect the operating system – it primarily removes iexplore.exe (although some software re-configuration and two reboots are required). Whilst this will prevent anyone using the browser, the main Internet Explorer code base and libraries can still be accessed by Windows and third-party applications.
The uninstall options appear to be quick fixes to Windows 7 (although, to be fair to Microsoft, they could have planned it months ago). However, the ‘feature’ has appeared shortly after the European Commission ruling that could have forced Microsoft to offer alternative browsers within Windows. Microsoft is yet to respond to Commission’s preliminary conclusions, but offering an IE8 uninstall option is likely to solve a number of potential legal problems.
Will the IE uninstall stop Microsoft’s ongoing legal battles in Europe and other territories? Will it help or hinder Windows users and web developers?