November 18, 2005 10:14 AM PST

Still 'no demand' for media-player-free Windows

A major U.K. retail store and three of the largest PC vendors worldwide still have no plans to sell the version of Microsoft Windows that does not contain its media player, five months after the version was released.

Microsoft started offering Windows XP N, a version of Windows without a bundled media player, in June of this year to comply with last year's antitrust ruling by the European Commission.

Before Windows XP N was released, the only PC vendor that said it might install the software was Fujitsu Siemens, which said it would do so on request. But Garry Owen, head of product marketing at Fujitsu Siemens Computers, said Thursday there has been no customer demand for Windows XP N.

"We haven't had customers requesting Windows XP N yet, and so as there is no demand at present, customers wanting XP N on their machine can have a PC configured with the software on a built-to-order basis from the factory," Owen said.

Lenovo said its position remains the same and demand for Windows XP N "remains low." Dell also said its position has not changed, but did not comment on the demand for XP N, advising ZDNet UK to contact Microsoft for this information.

A Microsoft representative said the software company did not have any figures on Windows XP N. "As we sell it through channels, we don't have any figures on how many users are buying it," she said, advising ZDNet UK to "speak directly to retailers or someone in the (retail) channel."

Earlier this year, PC World--the U.K.'s largest computer store chain--said that it would not stock XP N since the full version of Windows XP was the same price, thereby offering a better value to its customers. A PC World representative said Thursday that this situation hasn't changed and there had been "no demand" for XP N, as far as she was aware.

A European Commission spokesman refused to comment on the Microsoft antitrust case Thursday. In June, when ZDNet UK questioned the EC about the lack of interest in Windows XP N, a representative said it was "too early to start drawing conclusions."

The continuing reluctance of PC vendors to sell Windows XP N raises serious questions over the effectiveness of the EU's antitrust ruling, particularly as Microsoft has been allowed to offer Windows XP N for the same price as the standard version of Windows XP.

Microsoft recently reached a settlement with RealNetworks, a key participant in Europe's antitrust actions against Microsoft. In return for $460 million in cash and other investments from Microsoft, Real agreed to end its involvement in antitrust investigations across the globe.

Ingrid Marson reported for ZDNet UK.

28 comments

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Of course....
The whole EU windows media fiasco was ill thought out in the first place.

The money on both sides was wasted, and for what? To create a product that rather predictably no one will care about?

I mean, why would you want to purchase a slightly changed version of an OS?

Anyone who dislikes Microsoft enough that they dont want more products on their machine will either buy a Mac/Linux, use some alternative that they like better (I use Media Player Classic Myself) or god forbid uninstall the free packaged program, course we cant exspect the consumer to be smart. We have to waste millions of dollars about arguing about whether including FREE software is fair or not.
Posted by Madrone (43 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That's EU for you
This is just one example of what happens when the EU gets involved. Sure it had its heyday when it synchronized dumb member state standards, but now it's just wasting time. The offices functions are often pointless, but all engulfing.

Hope you never want to import bananas with the less than perfect curvature. Otherwise EU sub commissioner of commissioners for sub commissions of the tertiary import office will refuse it.
Posted by sanenazok (3449 comments )
Link Flag
EU should have...
made Microsoft yank out IE or forced them to include alternitives that automatically install, but that probably would have been just about as usefull as making a version of Windows without Media Player.

After some thought on the subject, I have come to the conclusion that if I were a retailer of computers I would install Firefox and Opera and maybe some other media player before I sold a computer. That way my consumer gets at least exposed to alternitives to IE and Media Player.

Outside of IE's potiential for being a security risk I can't see why Microsoft should remove IE anymore. KDE comes with a browser and a media player and so does the Mac so I see no reason why Microsoft should have to remove IE or Media Player. Although it would be nice if they would seperate them from the OS itself.
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
Link Flag
Uninstall WMP
It can't be done, you can unistall shortcuts from the start menu and desktop, but you can not unistall the program.

Relative to other MS offering, WMO is pretty darn good, and decent overall. I think the EU should have pushed MS to release an IE free version of windows, now THAT would sell like hotcakes.
Posted by Bill Dautrive (1179 comments )
Link Flag
Who in their right mind would want RealPlayer instead of WMP?
The whole thing was set up so the EU could extort millions in cash from MS to settle anti-trust claims because they saw an opportunity and not because they had a desire to change MS's behaviour.

RealPlayer is garbage it's years behind WMP. Nobody wants it preloaded, it's bad enough have to end up with it because you need to listen to a file that someone (who should've known better) encoded for Real Player.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yeah, RealPlayer sucks
I won't install it at all. Not even for a file format recorded for RealPlayer. If it's only recorded in RealPlayers format then I just won't listen to it.

Personally I like Quicktime and iTunes for all my media player needs.
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
Link Flag
The real reason?
I had been following the story of the EU-Microsoft suit for some time. The last I had heard was that Microsoft was naming the no media player version "Windows Reduced Media Edition" but the EU did not like that name because it might want to make consumers not want to buy the software, so Microsoft was looking for a new name for the crippled OS. Turns out the name they chose was "Windows XP N". There could be various reasons for the failure of this product:

1. People DO like the Windows Media Player, and want it preinstalled on their PCs. I use it myself to watch DVDs and listen to MP3s and I much prefer it to RealPlayer (Note: I consider myself a Microsoft basher.)

2. People would like to have a no media player edition of Windows, but don't buy XP N because it is the same price as the full version.

But I think the real reason is that people just don't know about XP N, or what the difference is. I don't think MS has put such a big promotion effort behind this version of their OS. The reasons are obvious, why would I promote a crippled version of my product that sells for the same price as the original? If I had to speculate, I would say MS wants XP N to fail, so that they can countersue the EU, but that's just speculation. The truth is, XP N is a product that offers no added value to the consumer. Perhaps if it had included an ALTERNATIVE media player, instead of NO media player, it might be worth something.

While I applaud the EU's commitment to stop Microsoft's monopoly of the software market, I have to say that in this case, they didn't really have a case. The reason why other players like Real Player fail is because their product is either inferior or just not used widely enough to be an accepted standard.
Posted by Sentinel (199 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This was a good thing for the EU to do
Only problem is that it did not go far enough. They forced MS to make WMP a standalone app. WMP is not that bad, although all I ever use it for is to watch stupid little internet movies. I use powerDvD for movies and musicmatch for music on the windows side of my computer and they are better then WMP, IMO.

The big issue, other then monopoly issues, is that making non-OS apps part of the OS creates major problems in the OS. XP and the fact IE7 will be a standalone app is proof of that. What they should have done is to force WMP, along with IE and OE to be standalone apps. Not only would consumers benefit, but MS would benefit from less security and bug issues due to the integration mess they made, although MS would lose a bit of their monopoly, but that benefits consumers and the computing industry as a whole.
Posted by Bill Dautrive (1179 comments )
Link Flag
The EU did a good thing
The way I see it wasn't that the EU made the monoloplist take out the media player what they really did was send a message loud and clear to Redmond that "We are in charge here, not you."

Consider the costs of litigation, the time and money required to make the changes to Windows to produce another version and the costs of maintaining another product. The fine to Microsoft for not being a better member of the community was a high price and being forced to produce a seperate version of their OS under the terms that someone else dictated was I'm sure salt in the wound.

Microsoft has cash to burn and has proven that all of their money isn't important by using it to buy off everyone that they could to get out of a wide assortment of court cases. In this case they couldn't just buy their way out and had to pay a steeper price in pride. This may be more important than the money in the long run.

While MS may very well forget having to pay a fine they won't soon forget that they can be forced to play by rules that they don't like in order to get along (or even do business) and that is a tougher but perhaps better lesson for them to learn. I hope that they learn it well.

The next time the demands could be even more expensive.
Posted by albrown (36 comments )
Reply Link Flag
RE
You vastly under estimate Microsoft's ability for under handed dealing. Microsoft doesn't learn they go through the motions till things blow over then it's right back to their game. As for pride the fine was wasn't much when compared to Microsoft's profits and we don't know the true cost of removing WMP from the OS.
Posted by unknown unknown (1951 comments )
Link Flag
That's right
The EU said that they - the EU bureaucrats - are in charge.

Not Microsoft.
And certainly not the consumer.

How very European.
Posted by jawaidbazyar (29 comments )
Link Flag
pocket change
Every time microsoft gets fined it's just pocket change
Posted by FearThePaw (3 comments )
Link Flag
if you consider wasting taxdollars a good thing...
How much money and time did the EU spend that could have been better spend elsewhere?

Sure they made Microsoft bend to their will so to speak, but who cares, theirs a version of windows out their without a free product attached to it that no one buys...
Posted by Madrone (43 comments )
Reply Link Flag
oops replied wrong place
this should be a reply to the topic above it
Posted by Madrone (43 comments )
Link Flag
Bundle iTunes!!
Personally, I think it we be great if iTunes and QuickTime came bundled with Windows, but I would still go download WMP cause it's free and some content requires it, like certain trailers and other videos.

I do believe they are a monopoly and something should be done, but I haven't seen anyone handle it successfully. It would take a lot of change to fix the issue. Like demanding they not include IE or WMP in Windows, and requiring them to sell the product seperately. It seems kind of not their place, but then MS could still sell those products for "free" and charge the same price for the OS.

If they lowered the price of Windows Home Edition N, people would buy it and then just download WMP and get a cheaper system so why would MS want to undercut their own sales?

If the government really want's to make a change they need to do more, perhaps have someone with knowledge in the computer feild guide them.
Posted by chuckmcfly (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"Personally, I think it we be great if iTunes and QuickTime came bundled with Windows, but I would still go download WMP cause it's free and some content requires it, like certain trailers and other videos."

And what would this accomplish? You're unbundling Microsoft software to...bundle Apple software?

Am I the only one that sees the problem with this?
Posted by LieutenantFrost (2 comments )
Link Flag
They should have made...
it uninstallable... same as IE... that would at least have made sense

whats the point in offering XP without WMP... i can dl any media player for free...
Posted by volterwd (466 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Stupid Remedy.
It doesn't achieve the objective ... open and fair competition.

Any vendor of a monopoly OS that bundles software should also be required to bundle a few competing alternatives. Simple.

But to remove software from an OS release that (obviously) nobody is going to buy?! I bet Gates is LHAO at the stupidity of the EU.

And to those who sometimes claim "Apple has an OS monopoly on Apple hardware!" ... you need to re-read the definition of "monopoly".
Posted by open-mind (1027 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Of Course! Customers have no clue what's at stake
Most people use the default settings. Of course the average user
won't "demand" Win N, they have no idea what's in it in the first
place!
Posted by technewsjunkie (1265 comments )
Reply Link Flag
amazing
You mean people aren't aware of and/or dont buy useless repackaging of products?
Posted by Bob Brinkman (556 comments )
Link Flag
That's a no brainer :)
The average consumer has no clue what they are buying most of the time.

There are very few customers who would buy a product with fewer features if they did understand the difference.

There is no requirement to sell any given number of this version of windows. Microsoft can sell the normal version alongside the media player removed version and has no incentives to push the XP N version on to consumers.

The vendors have no part in this solution, they just sell a product and they are of course going to sell the one that suites their needs best. Product support costs increase when you create one product with and one product without a key and expected feature.

The remedy is a faulty one for a problem that runs quite a bit deeper than the inclusion of a media player in an operating system.
Posted by zaznet (1138 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A perfect example why politicians have no clue!!!!
This issue has real world current implications on other tech debates currently on going. The only reason Microsoft even released this software was because media player competitors greased the palms of politicians in order to create government sanctions against Microsoft's media player integration in thier Windows platform. A few years ago politicians had hearings concerning Microsoft's choice in making many options like media player included free of charge with Windows. These politicians had (and still don't have) any clue about technology or the tech market! Instead of admitting thier lack of knowledge they instead created insane solutions which is the case with this no media player version of Windows!!! The fact that this Windows product is not selling should not surprise anyone! Lets face facts every Windows add on ever made has become the top product like Internet Explorer. Why? Simple these products work better then the competition hands down. Sure use realplayer and after a week of that crappy realplayer taskbar icon constantly eating CPU resources and popping up ad's allover I am confident that you will be back to using Microsoft's product. To all politicians currently involved in any Tech related issuses I say SHUT UP, you know nothing about technology so why do you think you have the ability to govern how it's used you are the court jesters of progress in the tech market GET OUT!!!!!!!!!
Posted by toast66612 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
EU export software not litigation please
Hey EU maybe you should spend some time producing software rather than litigation. I find it pretty funny that the only stake the EU has in this is a bunch of bureaucrats muking with US software companies.
Posted by xyzzxy (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
For each app that becomes a de facto standard, there are plenty that are not.

Microsoft has their XPS format, but I've never downloaded one - all the forms I get are in PDF format.
Microsoft has Silverlight, but apart from a handful of sites and the Olympics, all the sites I go to use Flash.
Microsoft has DirectX, but every game I have from the past few years also supports OpenGL.
Microsoft has Windows Live Messenger, but all of my friends have AIM (though I know that the IM app of choice varies from region to region).
Microsoft integrated Zip file creation and extraction into Windows, but nearly everyone I know has Winzip/WinRAR/IZArc/7zip on their computer.

Yes, I'll fully admit that IE has become the de facto standard because it was installed by default at the expense of Netscape/Firefox/Opera, and for few other reasons. Windows Media, on the other hand, won over RealPlayer for plenty of merits. Realplayer gobbled up system resources, it had proprietary formats, forced near-weekly updates that took an hour to download, buffered more than it played, and displayed more advertisements than most software I've installed before or since (with the possible exception of KaZaA). WMP had a format that, while not open source, Microsoft has made SDK's available to other companies, so it's possible to play WMA files in dozens of apps not programmed by Microsoft. It delievers no ads, rarely requires updating, and doesn't have nagging icons in the system tray. It's not that WMP won, it's that Real collapsed under their own greed and shortsightedness and WMP was left standing.

Joey
Posted by voyager529 (212 comments )
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