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Thursday, June 23, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

Windows without player not big seller

The Associated Press

PARIS — In Microsoft's new operating system — Windows XP N — the "N" stands for "Not with Media Player." But it might as well stand for "No Thanks."

PC makers and distributors are holding back from buying the new alternative version of Windows XP that Europe's competition commissioner ordered Microsoft to offer as part of the punishment in the software maker's long antitrust battle with the European Union.

Windows XP N was released to distributors last week in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish, and will be available to the public in the next few weeks. Versions in 10 additional languages will be released in July.

The world's largest software maker had to change its Windows operating system after EU antitrust regulators ruled last year that it abusively wielded its Windows monopoly and locked out competitors.

But computer distributors and manufacturers are so far showing little interest in the new product, which compels consumers to choose their media player and download it from the Internet. And that raises questions over the effectiveness of the media player component of the antitrust ruling.

"We don't see any interest at all in the product for the consumer," said Lionel Jarlan, computer buyer at France's Fnac department-store chain. Fnac will be testing the product in a limited range of stores. They are expecting a first delivery at the beginning of July.

Many stores say they will not bother stocking the product.

"We'll continue to sell the old version because it's obviously better value for our customers," said Gina Jones, spokeswoman for PC World, Britain's leading PC retailer.

Microsoft is offering Windows XP N for the same price as the standard version of Windows XP.

Sony and Dell said they did not intend to install the new product in their computers.

"From our experience, customers purchasing computers expect them to come equipped with the capability of playing back digital-media files," said Dell spokesman Liem Nguyen.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


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