on to Microsoft's UK Web store could thrust you face-to-face with
confusion -- up close and personal with three unusual versions of
Windows known as Windows 7 Home Premium N, Windows 7 Professional N and
Windows 7 Ultimate N.
The strong arm of European law demands
Microsoft offer these confusing 'N' editions, but to understand what
they are and why they exist at all, we need a little history lesson.
in 2004, the European Commission fined Microsoft a record €497m under
an antitrust ruling. The Commission concluded that with a near-monopoly
in the operating system market, Microsoft's bundling of Windows Media
Player within Windows was anti-competitive. Microsoft was forced to
unbundle the software and offer European consumers and manufacturers a
version of Windows without it.
Microsoft was allowed to keep
selling Windows with a media player, under the condition that it at
least offer a version without. This took place in the latter part of
Windows XP's life and prompted the release of Windows XP N -- a version
identical to Windows XP, but without Windows Media Player.
couple of years down the line, Windows Vista splatted down in Europe,
complete with its own N editions to confuse the poor saps who missed
the EC's memo.
Windows 7 N
Fast-forward to today, and a
Microsoft spokesperson explained to CNET UK, "The European Commission's
2004 decision requires Microsoft to offer an N version of Windows in
Europe. We continue to abide by this ruling."
And so Windows 7 N
was born. They cost the same as their non-'N' brothers and sisters, and
apart from Windows Media Player, offer the same spread of features.
you have to do now is decide which of the six non-N versions are right
for you, and, wouldn't you know it, we have a handy, simple guide for
that as well.