Microsoft Agrees to EU Changes for XP N

In a stunning show of compliance, Microsoft has agreed to all of the major changes requested by European Union (EU) antitrust regulators regarding the version of Windows XP it must ship without Windows Media Player. Microsoft has even agreed to the name for the product that was suggested by the EU. The company had been wrangling with the requirements of its EU-mandated antitrust ruling for a year, and recently the EU had commented that Microsoft's recalcitrance could result in daily fines.

"Earlier today we contacted the \[European\] Commission \[or EC, the EU's regulatory arm\] and informed them that we have accepted all the main changes they have requested we make to the version of Windows without Media Player," said Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft's top lawyer in Europe. Microsoft, he said, will provide two editions of Windows XP without Media Player, and both will bear an "N" suffix representing "Not with Windows Media Player." The editions will thus be named "Windows XP Home Edition N" and "Windows XP Professional Edition N."

Microsoft had originally tried to name the product as Windows XP Reduced Media Edition, but EC regulators complained that that name made the product less desirable to consumers, violating the spirit of the ruling. Two months ago, Microsoft submitted a list of nine other possible names, but the EC rejected all of them. "While we have some misgivings that the Commission’s designated name may cause confusion for consumers, we will adopt the Commission's name in order to promptly move forward and accelerate the pace of the implementation process," the company wrote in a statement issued earlier this week.

Microsoft also revealed that it has agreed to a number of other "design and description" changes for the N versions of XP that were requested by the EU. The company will remove packaging references to certain products not working with those versions of Windows, will create a software application that will help consumers reinstall all of the Windows Media Player-related files that Microsoft removed, and will change various unspecified Registry entries within the product. That last change is likely related to complaints made by RealNetworks, which makes a rival media player and noted that the new N versions of XP wouldn't work with its products because of Registry changes.

The EU hasn't yet examined Microsoft's agreement, and thus won't comment on the changes to which the company has agreed. But a spokesperson for the software giant said that the agreement covers "99 percent" of the outstanding issues the EU has with Microsoft's antitrust compliance. Only a few technical issues remain to be ironed out, he said.

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