June 15 Release Set for Windows XP 'N'

Microsoft announced on Wednesday the release timetable for its version of Windows XP without Windows Media Player, simply branded with the additional moniker: N. The slimmed down OS will be available to European computer makers on June 15, with a retail launch slated for July 1.

It's not clear, however, if computer manufacturers will even be interested in the N editions, which carry the same price tag as versions with Windows Media Player.

The N editions of Windows XP were mandated as part of Microsoft's compliance with a European Commission antitrust ruling against the company levied in March 2004. Microsoft recently submitted its final proposal to comply with the EU's demands, which has been met with a positive response from European regulators.

As part of the ruling, Microsoft was also forced to pay 497 million euros and open up its Windows protocols to third parties. The source code licensing requirement became a sticking point, as Microsoft has refused to give access to open source developers due to intellectual property concerns.

Microsoft initially proposed calling the special WMP-free versions Windows XP Reduced Media Edition. EU officials, however, were not amused by the name and Microsoft reluctantly agreed to use the letter N, which stands for "not with media player."

Microsoft says it had suggested nine different names, which included Windows XP/N and Windows XP/B, as well as "Windows XP Not Incorporating Windows Media Player." All nine were rejected by the EU.

Windows XP Professional N and Windows XP Home Edition N were originally released to computer manufacturers in January, but the EU Commission called for additional changes following complaints from Microsoft rivals including Real Networks.

"As is the case with existing versions of Windows, computer makers and end users can install other media players with the software," the company said in a statement. "Microsoft provided CDs with both products to the European Commission early last week."

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