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PC makers snub Windows sans media player

Only one of several manufacturers interviewed said they might accept requests to preinstall Windows XP N on machines.

Four major PC makers have no plans to sell the media-player-free version of Windows, which Microsoft was ordered to offer by Europe's competition commissioner.

Microsoft will make an updated version of Window XP N available on Wednesday, but none of the computer manufacturers that ZDNet UK spoke to are considering preinstalling it on desktops or laptops.

Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and Fujitsu Siemens all said they have no firm plans to install Windows XP N, citing a lack of customer demand. A Dell representative added Tuesday that customers expect to have a media player included.

Windows N

"Dell will continue to offer European customers Microsoft's Windows operating systems including the Windows Media Player utility on Dimension desktops and Inspiron notebooks," the representative said.

"Customers purchase computers expecting them to come equipped with the capability of playing back digital media files, and it's our obligation to meet this need. (Windows XP N will) not (be offered) at this time. We'll monitor the market to see if XP N is in high demand."

Lenovo, which last month completed its purchase of IBM's PC division, and HP expressed similar sentiments.

"At this time, HP has no plans to support Windows XP Professional Edition N on commercial notebooks in 2005," said an HP representative.

A Lenovo representative said: "At present we have no plans to preinstall Windows XP N on desktops and laptops. We will continue to monitor customer demand going forward."

The only company that conceded it may preinstall Windows XP N was Fujitsu Siemens, which said it would do so on request. "We will not preinstall as standard," said a Fujitsu Siemens representative. "It will only be on special requests, and we have had no such request from any of our customers to date."

Acer, another PC manufacturer, has been unable to provide a comment on this issue during the past week.

The lack of interest from computer manufacturers for Windows XP N raises questions over the effectiveness of the EU's antitrust ruling, particularly the fact that Microsoft has been allowed to offer Windows XP N for the same price as the standard version of Windows XP.

A European Commission representative was reluctant to comment on the issue. "Given that Windows XP N has not even been shipped yet, it is too early to start drawing conclusions," he said.

Microsoft said it bears no responsibility for making PC manufacturers use Windows XP N.

"Microsoft has made these products available through its standard distribution channels," a company representative said. "Whether or not customers or distributors offer this product in Europe is a decision for individual computer manufacturers, enterprise customers and retailers."

One of Microsoft's rivals in the media player market, RealNetworks, criticized Microsoft earlier this year for failing to provide a fully functional version of Windows that is unbundled from Windows Media Player.

RealNetworks declined to comment on the updated version of Windows XP N.