Pricing scuppers Media Player-free XP

PC World has joined the ranks of those who won't be selling Windows XP N, as it feels the product isn't good value

The European Commission's attempt to increase competition by forcing Microsoft to offer a version of Windows XP without its Media Player looks increasingly forlorn, with many retailers and computer resellers now having indicated they won't sell the product.

PC World, the UK's largest computer retail chain, confirmed on Monday that it had no immediate plans to sell Windows XP N, which will be available to retailers from this coming Friday.

"The reason is that XP N is the same retail price as the full version of XP. Obviously we face the choice of stocking both, or one or the other. We've taken the decision to just stock the full version because it contains more features, so is better value to our customers," said a PC World spokesperson.

Earlier this month, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and Fujitsu Siemens all told ZDNet UK that they aren't planning to pre-install XP N on their desktops or notebooks.

Microsoft was forced to create a Media Player-free version of XP after the EC ruled in March 2004 that the software giant had broken EU competition law by "leveraging its near monopoly in the market for PC operating systems onto the markets for work group server operating systems and for media players."

When asked why XP N was the same price as the standard version of XP, PC World indicated that Microsoft was responsible. In response, Microsoft pointed out that the European Commission hadn't insisted that the two products to be priced differently.

"As was made clear in the proceedings before the President of the Court of First Instance, the new versions will be priced the same as Windows XP Home Edition and Windows XP Professional, respectively. This is consistent with the Commission Decision, as confirmed by European Commission’s statements and releases which acknowledge that Microsoft is permitted to offer the products at the same price. It is noteworthy that media players are generally made available for free via Web downloads," said a Microsoft spokesperson in an emailed statement.

"Microsoft does not set end user pricing. Its pricing is for guidance only," the company added.

Microsoft initially tried to call XP N the 'Reduced Media Edition', but this was rejected by the EU because it sounded inferior.

The EC has not responded to requests for comment at the time of writing.