EC awaits Microsoft's full antitrust compliance

A fully functional version of Windows without Microsoft's Media Player included is taking longer than EC authorities would like
Written by Ingrid Marson, Contributor

The expected version of Windows without Microsoft's Media Player is being held up by technical issues, despite the release of the scaled-down operating system being a fundamental part of European antitrust reparations against the software giant, according to EU authorities.

Speaking on Monday, a spokesperson for the European Commission (EC) said that Microsoft has not yet proposed a solution to technical problems in the upcoming version of Windows with its Media Player technology removed.

Last month media player rival RealNetworks said that various registry entries are missing in the unbundled version of Windows, which means that competing players cannot interoperate with applications such as Microsoft Word, or work properly with some Web sites.

The integration issues mean that the unbundled version of Windows is likely to be less attractive to PC manufacturers, which would contravene the EC ruling.

The EC spokesman said it is aware of the technical problems and that Microsoft should be able to solve them. Rival media player vendors have been able to separate Windows from its media player without losing functionality, he said.

"Windows should work as well without [Windows] Media Player as with, otherwise it's less attractive to clients and customers," he added. "Windows working without the media player has been demonstrated by competing software providers."

The EC is also concerned about warning pages shown by some applications in the unbundled version of Windows, which state that the application will not work as well if the user does not have Windows Media Player, according to the EC spokesman.

Microsoft was unable to comment in time for this article.

Even when the EC and Microsoft resolve the problems in the unbundled version of Windows, PC vendors are expecting little consumer demand for the product. The EC does not plan to take any action to persuade PC vendors to use the software after HP and Dell expressed disinterest in the unbundled version of Windows.

The EC said it will not intervene if PC vendors refuse to stock the unbundled version, as it is up to rival media player vendors to provide a sufficiently attractive alternative.

"We are simply trying to create an environment where companies can compete," said the EC spokesman. "If HP and Dell still prefer to have Windows with [Microsoft's] media player, that's their choice."

Last week Microsoft agreed to call the unbundled product either Windows XP Home Edition N or Windows XP Professional Edition N, rather than Windows XP Reduced Media Edition — Microsoft's original suggestion.

Dell said on Monday it has no plans to sell desktop or notebook computers in Europe without Windows Media Player. "The current offering [version of Windows] satisfies our requirements," said a Dell spokesman.

HP told Wall Street Journal Europe that it will offer both versions of Windows in Europe but doesn't expect many customers to opt for the version without the media player.

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