Regulators tell Microsoft there's plenty in a name

Name of Windows version that unbundles Media Player would undermine antitrust penalty, EU says.

Alorie Gilbert Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Alorie Gilbert
writes about software, spy chips and the high-tech workplace.
Alorie Gilbert
2 min read
Microsoft has agreed to rename the new slimmed-down version of Windows it's preparing to release in Europe, after antitrust regulators there balked at the title.

Microsoft announced last month that it intended to use the name "Windows XP Reduced Media Edition" for the program, which has, by order of the European Commission, been stripped of the Media Player that's usually included.

The Commission was concerned that the name would undermine its order by turning consumers off to the new version of Windows and prompting them to stay with the current version, according to reports. So Microsoft is ditching the name and is now busy coming up with a new one, Microsoft spokeswoman Stacy Drake said Friday.

"The Commission has requested that we change the name from the original suggestion," Drake said. "While we believe this name complies (with the commission's orders), we have agreed to make the change. We're working together with the commission to come up with an alternative name."

A representative for the Commission was not immediately available to comment. Recently, however, a Commission representative had threatened further fines if Microsoft did anything to make the new product unattractive, according to several news reports published Friday.

The uninspired name was likely a reflection of Microsoft's feeling about the new product, which the Commission ordered it to release last year as part of the antitrust sanctions it imposed after finding Microsoft guilty of abusive business practices. The Commission also fined the company $648 million.

In addition to lacking a copy of Windows Media Player, the new version of Windows won't be able to do things such as play a CD or MP3 file or transfer music to a portable device--at least not without additional software from another company.

"Given the complexity of implementing the remedies, it's not surprising that there will be issues and questions that go along with the process," Drake said. "Microsoft remains fully committed to implementing the Commission's decision and working with them toward that goal."

Nevertheless, Drake defended the company's original name choice, saying it would have accurately conveyed the difference between the two products. Microsoft is working with its partners to release the new program next month, as scheduled, and has already shipped it to some computer makers in Europe, she added.

Microsoft plans to sell the new product in Europe only and charge the same price that the fuller-featured version fetches there. The company also plans to appeal the Commission's ruling but recently decided not to fight a court order requiring immediate compliance with sanctions, after losing a bid to delay them.

CNET News.com's Ina Fried contributed to this report.