December 22, 2004 3:47 PM PST

Microsoft readies scaled-back Windows

Less is less.

Microsoft seemed to put that message right into the name of its latest Windows version: Windows XP Reduced Media Edition.

Ordered by European regulators to sell a version of Windows without a built-in media player and denied a stay on Wednesday from an appeals court, Microsoft said it will deliver both Home and Professional versions of the scaled-back operating system to computer makers in January. The Reduced Media editions will be available only in Europe.

Microsoft group product manager Matt Pilla said the company wanted to be as clear as possible about what customers are--or aren't--getting. "As descriptive as we can be in the name, to reduce confusion, the better," Pilla said.

In addition to lacking a copy of Windows Media Player, the new version of Windows won't be able to do things like play a CD or MP3 file or transfer music to a portable device--at least not without additional software from another company. Among the limited media features that do remain are the ability to play .wav files using Sound Recorder as well as a moviemaking program that is separate from Windows Media Player.

"This is the first time we are being required to offer to consumers a version of Windows that provides them with less value rather than more," Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith said in an interview Wednesday.

Customers who opt for the media-player-free version won't be getting a bargain. The EU ordered that Microsoft couldn't charge more for the version sans player, but it didn't say that Microsoft had to charge less.

"I am anticipating that it will be offered on exactly the terms that the court's--I should say that the commission's--decision permits it to be offered, which is the same price as the version of Windows that we offer today," Smith said during a conference call with reporters.

Those who do want the version will also have to head to Europe, as Microsoft said it does not plan to offer the software elsewhere.

"We have no plans to offer this version of Windows outside of the European Economic Area at this time, and I don't expect we'll have any such plans in the future," Smith told reporters. The EEA includes the European Union countries as well as Switzerland and Norway.

Smith said Microsoft has been working on developing the stripped-down version of Windows in advance of Wednesday's ruling.

"We've had technical teams working very hard over a series of months now on all of those steps, and there will be some additional work for the final stages of testing this additional version of Windows, but I think it's fair to say that most of the technical work is behind us," Smith said. "We do have some final stages ahead."

Microsoft said that all of the things that are supposed to work do work, though it still expects support calls from customers expecting features that aren't there.

"There's things that a customer is going to expect that won't work," said Dave Fester, general manager of Microsoft's Windows consumer unit, in an interview. "Customers (using) all operating systems have come to expect certain base functionality, whether it is Windows, Mac or Linux."

Smith did not say what the exact price tag will be for complying with the EU order, but did say "It's not the kind of cost figure that one would consider to be material for a company the size of Microsoft."

17 comments

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Does Machintosh have to take out itunes?
Man so i have to shell out thousands of dollars for a Mac and
Then buy third party softwares to get simple things done? Thats
what the ruling is saying to any computer makers. Not just
Microsoft. I think EU is hurting consumer instead of helping
them or even other software companies.
Posted by audiophilecc (65 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Actually
You are confusing bundling and embedding.

You can remove most of the applications from a Mac and the OS
will still work. Apple offers you the options when installing the
OS not to install these applications just as MS does.

This is callled 'Bundling'

But what MS does is makes certain applications a part of the OS
and you do not have the option of not installing them 'IE'. You
are forced to have them installed regardless that you don't want
them or will not ever use them. You cannot uninstall IE.

This is called 'Embedding'

What the EU is trying to do is give the consumer a choice.

But this is all moot unless you live in the EU.
Posted by wrwjpn (113 comments )
Link Flag
Only Optional
Microsoft will be selling Microsoft Windows XP Home and Professional, and Home Reducem Media Edition and Proffessional Reduced Media Edition. Also, the Reduced Media Edition will be provided at the same price as the Standard Edition. So, what's the problem?

It is only optional to purchase the new Media-free version. And even if it weren't, Windows Media Player is a - FREE - addon, and is readily availble to download from the Microsoft website. So you won't be forking out anything extra.

As for Apple-Mac users... No ruling has been made to stop Apple from bundling software... So nothing extra has to be bought there either.
Posted by (4 comments )
Link Flag
Love the name
Way less subtle a name than I thought it would be, but to be honest while writing this I couldn't think of another name.

On the subject of Embedding and Bundling, it really seems an irrelevent argument as WMP and iTunes/QuickTime are treated the same on their respective platform so I can't see why Microsoft are bad and Apple aren't.
Posted by Andrew J Glina (1673 comments )
Reply Link Flag
None are Bad
The decision was based upon the idea that a legal monopoly that has worked within a fair market system to establish advantages over its competitors should be forced to play by a tougher set of rules.

Yep. We're back to the fair vs. equal problem again.

Fair says that everybody is in the same system with the same opportunities and your success is based upon how you capitalize on those opportunities.

Equal says we should alter the opportunities and cripple the successful so that everybody can share profits equally. Proponents of this ideal also consider it to be "fair."

It is only fitting that the more socialistic environment under the EU would opt for "Equal" approach, while the same ruling in America resulted in a "Fair" judgement.

My preference leans towards fair. I like to think that smart, hard-working people can gain an advantage over less-capable people in the marketplace without being crippled as a result.
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
I Agree
As a user of both Windows and Mac OS X, I don't see that MS
'embeds' Windows Media Player, it does bundle it just as Apple
bundles Quicktime/iTunes. I don't have any problems with
bundling as long as the software can be *completely* removed
from the system by the user (unlike Internet Explorer). So, the EU
ruling was a bit of a surprise (and I'm not sure fair really) and a
possible boon for MS competitors such as Real. HP is bundling
Apple's Quicktime/iTunes software with all of it's new PCs, is
this also illegal in the EU?

Obviously there is a huge war heating up over digital media, a
very important war, because if your software/codec(s) are shut
out you're done (lookout Real). If you are successful it's going to
mean billions in future revenues, as most consumers are
increasing their bandwidth at home and ISPs will continue to
offer bigger pipelines. Read what 'Directions on Microsoft'
analysts have to say about digital media from their 'Top 10
Challenges for Microsoft in 2005':

"Apple's iPod and iTunes Music Store have established huge
leads, and their success severely threatens Microsoft's overall
digital media plans. In 2005, Microsoft and its digital media
partners need to match or beat Apple on ease-of-use and style,
or they risk letting Apple control this critical market."
(see <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.directionsonmicrosoft.com/top10.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.directionsonmicrosoft.com/top10.html</a>)

It would seem that WMP, standing on it's own merits, isn't doing
as well as some MS fans think anyway. (Don't forget that iTunes
software also installs Apple's Quicktime media software as well,
two birds with one stone as it were.)

In any event, I don't think Microsoft or it's Windows Media Player
are in any danger over the ruling per se. MS will simply strike
deals with OEMs (have them bundle the software) and/or make it
really easy for EU users to quickly find and download WMP.

The biggest challenge for Microsoft is the ever growing
popularity of Apple's iTunes and Quicktime software with PC
consumers, Web developers and now movie makers. MS made an
attempt to shut-out Apple (and everyone else) with it's Windows
XP Media Centre Edition 2005. However, and to the benefit of
the consumer, HP developed a work around so HP MCE users
continue to be free to choose iTunes/iPod to manage their
digital music and play it through WMCE.

So how would this ruling affect Windows XP Media Center Edition
in the EU, WMP is the backbone of the OS is it not? Microsoft was
counting on this Media edition of Windows to quietly lock
millions of users into their digital media technology IMO.

It will be a very interesting year ;P
Posted by dirk128 (31 comments )
Link Flag
What Microsoft means by 'Reduced Functionality'
I expect that now there will be features that used to work with previous version of Windoze that will suddenly not work. When questioned, the answer will be that they were part of the functionality that they were 'forced' to take out. lol.

I hope that enough people will demand the 'Reduced' version that they will start to get the message...we don't plan to continue to be force-fed whatever crap Microsoft chooses to stuff down our thoughts.
Posted by (1 comment )
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