Microsoft's antitrust settlement with European Union regulators has already had a negative effect on the company's Internet Explorer web browser, according to a study by market analysts at StatCounter. In countries such as Great Britain, France, and Italy, IE usage has dropped by measurable amounts in the past 30 days.

The drop is attributable to the release of Microsoft's so-called browser ballot screen, which pops up on Windows XP-, Vista-, and 7-based PCs in the EU, but only when the user has configured IE as the default browser. The screen provides the user with information about the top 12 browsers, 5 of which--IE, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, and Apple Safari--are prominently advertised in random order.

According to StatCounter, IE usage in France has dropped 2.5 percent since the release of the browser ballot screen. And IE usage is down 1.3 percent in Italy, and 1 percent in Great Britain, during the same time frame.

Meanwhile, also-ran browser maker Opera reports that downloads of its own product have more than doubled overall in the EU during this period. Downloads in countries such as Italy, Portugal, and Spain have actually tripled. Mozilla also noted this week that downloads were up in the EU and added that it expects downloads to continue to increase as the browser ballot screen is made available across all EU countries.

Not all browser makers are happy with the screen. Those who don't make the top five--marginal products with unfamiliar names like Avant, Flock, and Sleipnir--complain that their placement in the interface won't help them gain new users. They're angling for a better position. (Arguably, they should be happy they're on the screen at all.)

Whether IE's usage rate continues to drop as a result of the browser ballot screen remains to be seen, and of course IE has been steadily losing usage share over the past several months regardless. Last week, Microsoft showed off its next generation browser, IE 9, though it's equally unclear when that browser will be ready for the public. Most, myself included, don't feel that Microsoft will be able to deliver IE 9 before 2011.