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

Microsoft offers Windows without its media player. The EU Commission is satisfied, but consumers and retailers don't seem to care.

A major U.K. retail store and three of the largest PC vendors worldwide still have no plans to sell the version of Microsoft Windows that does not contain its media player, five months after the version was released.

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

Lenovo said its position remains the same and demand for Windows XP N "remains low." Dell also said 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 representative said the software company 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 U.K.'s largest computer store chain--said that it would not stock XP N since the full version of Windows XP was the same price, thereby offering a better value to its customers. A PC World representative said Thursday that this situation hasn't changed and 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 Thursday. In June, when ZDNet UK questioned the EC about the lack of interest in Windows XP N, a representative 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.

Microsoft recently reached a settlement with RealNetworks, a key participant in Europe's antitrust actions against Microsoft. In return for $460 million in cash and other investments from Microsoft, Real agreed to end its involvement in antitrust investigations across the globe.

Ingrid Marson reported for ZDNet UK.