What if you built an OS and no one wanted it? That's the situation Microsoft faces now, as its European Union (EU)-mandated Windows XP N editions are met with a complete lack of interest from PC makers and consumers.

XP Home Edition N and XP Professional Edition N, as you might recall, exist because of an EU antitrust ruling that requires Microsoft to sell a version of XP in Europe that doesn't include Windows Media Player (WMP). Microsoft has shipped XP N versions that are localized for English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish markets, and versions for 10 other markets are on the way.

Retailers in Europe report that there's no interest in the XP N versions. The problems are price and perception. Despite lacking a key feature of the mainstream XP versions, the XP N editions are priced identically to their non-N counterparts. Too, the lack of a media player means that XP N buyers need to manually download a media player, which, believe it or not, is still a daunting process for many people.

Some PC makers--notably Dell and Sony--have simply refused to ship the XP N editions. "From our experience, customers purchasing computers expect them to come equipped with the capability of playing back digital media files," a Dell spokesperson said.