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

Major PC vendors are continuing to snub the version of Windows without a bundled media player but, after RealNetworks' settlement with Microsoft, is there anyone left to complain?

Three of the largest PC vendors worldwide and a major UK retail store still have no plans to sell Microsoft's media player-free version of Windows, almost six months after it was released.

Microsoft started offering a version of Windows without a bundled media-player, known as Windows XP N, in June 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 pre-install the software was Fujitsu Siemens, which said it would do so on request. But, Garry Owen, the head of product marketing at Fujitsu Siemens Computers, said on Thursday that 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," said Owen.

Lenovo said that its position remains the same and that demand for Windows XP N "remains low". Dell also said that 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 spokeswoman said the software giant 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 UK's largest chain of computer stores — said that it would not be stocking XP N as the full version of Windows XP was the same price and therefore offered better value to its customers. A PC World spokeswoman said on Thursday that this situation hasn't changed and that 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 on Thursday. In June, when ZDNet UK questioned the EC about the lack of interest in Windows XP N, a spokesman 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.

RealNetworks, which was a key participant in Europe's antitrust actions against Microsoft, recently reached a settlement with Microsoft. Under the deal, Real agreed to end its involvement in antitrust investigations across the globe, in return for $460m in cash.