Windows 7 hasn't even enjoyed a full retail release but has already drawn the ire of rival browser developers.

According to an article over on Electronista, both the Mozilla Foundation and Opera have lodged complaints that the upgrade functionality in Windows 7 is anti-competitive.

The complaint stems from the default behaviour of a Windows Vista to Windows 7 upgrade: should a user choose the “Express” option, Internet Explorer is set to the default browser regardless of the setting within Windows Vista. If you're a Firefox, Opera, or Safari user upgrading to Windows 7 you could find yourself being forcibly moved to Internet Explorer 8 – at least until you change the setting back again. The problem doesn't occur if the “Custom” install option is chosen, instead asking users whether they wish to retain their current choice of browser.

Chairman of the Mozilla Foundation Mitchell Baker claims that the move represents “a blatant use of the Windows operating system [by Microsoft] to change the market dynamics of browser usage.” Hakon Wium Lie, chief technology officer at rival Opera agrees – and calls the behaviour of the express upgrade option within Windows 7 the perfect example of the problems facing the current browser environment.

The pair have reason to complain: with Internet Explorer enjoying a majority share of the browser market as a result of its bundling with the Windows operating system, it's a hard slog for a rival browser to make an impact. Likewise, Microsoft has reason to try to downplay the availability of alternatives: its grasp on the market is continuing to slip away, and it must be tempting to utilise its position as a de facto monopoly in order to shore up its share of the browser market.

While Mozilla's Mike Connor has said in the past that offering alternative browsers including Firefox as bundled packages within Windows isn't the way to go, it's clear that the Foundation isn't willing to let Microsoft get away with what it sees as the blatant theft of its hard-won userbase.

Is Microsoft in the wrong here? Should the Windows 7 Express Upgrade honour a user's choice of alternative browser? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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