XP-N ...

*Disclaimer* I work for Microsoft, and this article (click here), though written by the AP, is on MSNBC.  This is all just my own opinion and not that of Microsoft, etc.

This comment isn't about whether or not Windows abused its monopoly or any other claims ... specifically, I'm reading and commenting about the colossal failure that is Windows XP-N.  We haven't had the joy of seeing XP-N here in the States, but it's a version of Windows XP that ships without Windows Media Player (WMP).  The European Commission forced Microsoft to sell such a version, claiming that Windows abused its predominance with the inclusion of WMP, giving an unfair disadvantage to other companies developing media players.

I'm not going to comment on whether or not this is a valid claim (for 2 reasons: I can't be objective, and who cares what I think).  But to force Microsoft to create a whole new SKU without WMP is simply ... stupid.   Not surprising to anyone, it was a complete failure.  With sales representing 0.005 percent and not a single manufacturer picking up XP-N,  it's a huge waste of everything that goes into getting a SKU.  For those who haven't seen what goes into it, it's a mind-boggling complex process that is resource intensive -- especially for something like Windows. 

I can almost live with the record-setting half a billion dollar fine, if it's used as reparations.  But the commission claims that the low "attach rate" of XP-N justifies the court's ruling: it's Windows dominance that is preventing users from embracing XP-N.  Huh?

Does anyone really believe that?  (I bet the ones that do are also RealPlayer fans... nothing against RealPlayer technically, I just don't like the marketing.) Even if you assume the position that WMP bundling is wrong, the commission's conclusion is not logical.  People didn't embrace it because the product made no sense -- that ship had already sailed, so to speak.  Forcing a new product to ship years after the original (even if Vista is way out on the horizon) is a move that does nothing but waste time.   Instead, leverage penalties that make sense that could correct the situation going forward -- make the punishment fit the crime, implement a solution that at least tries to solve the problem.

This is a bit of an oversimplification, but let's break users down into 3 groups:  those who buy new PCs with Windows XP preinstalled, power users who buy it OTS (off the shelf), and computer novices who buy it OTS.  If you belong in group 1, you're part of the 90% majority.  Manufacturers simply won't install XP-N because they know it's a loser move -- not a single one has chosen to do so.

Group 2 is the second biggest group; these are the people who are either upgrading or building a machine from scratch.  These power users are the ones most likely to ditch IE and use Firefox, ditch WMP and use something else, and on average, have 4 or more e-mail addresses.  This group is the most likely to be target consumers of XP-N, but even they typically get WinXP.  Why?  There's nothing to stop them from using something else (and they know this), and it's not a problem to simply uninstall WMP if they were so implied.  And the last group, the vast minority, will simply want whatever is "normal."

Creating a new SKU wasted a LOT of resources and did nothing to address the original verdict.
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