It’s very rare for a spokesperson for a software supplier to proudly reveal that there's absolutely no interest in a handful of its flagship products. But that was exactly what one Microsoft UK executive did a couple of months ago when discussing the various versions of Windows with PC Advisor.
He wasn't talking about the six versions of Windows Vista that are coming to the market (starting today), but was instead referring to the relatively unknown editions of XP.
Microsoft was forced to produce XP versions that didn't come with Windows Media Player (the alternatives were called 'Edition N') following a European Commission order that was supposed to encourage competition in the light Windows' monopoly on OSes (operating systems). The prevalence of Windows was said to give the software giant an unfair advantage over rivals such as RealNetworks and Apple, and so it was decided that consumers should be able to buy the OS without a bundled version of Media Player.
But no-one wants a 'reduced media' version of Windows, and the consensus is that the EC ruling has done absolutely nothing to enable competition.
The provisions for 'Edition N' have simply become a nuisance to all involved, with Microsoft's spokesperson telling us the company had sold practically none for XP. Now they're coming to Windows Vista too.
I've got no sympathy for Microsoft, which presumably has to do very little to comply with the EC ruling, and PC manufacturers have also decided 'N' is a waste of time, so we don't have to worry about them. Users, however, may be confused by the offering – why further overcomplicate Windows Vista releases, when people have already got six versions to choose from?
Fortunately, it's unlikely you'll see Edition N versions of Windows Vista on sale in UK shops. Everyone in the industry realises they're a waste of space, and no consumers or businesses are likely to want to buy them. So who is benefiting from this administrative nuisance?