“Microsoft is expected to release the first test version of its new Windows Media Player software on Wednesday, marking a significant upgrade aimed squarely at the burgeoning portable device market,” John Borland reports for CNET News. “The revamped Windows Media Player 10, which will be released in final form to the consumer market later this year, contains substantial changes to the way music, videos, and other media can be organised and retrieved.”
Borland reports, “The software, which incorporates recent advances in Microsoft’s digital rights management tools and a new technology allowing computers to communicate with devices such as MP3 players, forms a key component of the company’s response to Apple Computer’s strong successes with its iPod music player and software. One of the iPod’s key selling points has been its extraordinarily simple ease of use, which lets people load the device with music without having to take anything but the most rudimentary technical steps.”
“The new Windows Media Player builds on that idea, adding the ability to automatically keep portable devices up to date with changing music and video and photograph collections on a PC,’ Borland reports. “Analysts said the tight integration between PC software and a wide range of portable media devices was a key goal for Microsoft, but that it would also be important for the company to match the iPod’s ease of use. Because so many different hardware manufacturers use Microsoft technology, that goal could be difficult, they noted.”
“‘Microsoft is clearly moving in the right direction,’ Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg said. ‘But the key here is that Microsoft will have to work with its partners to create something that’s the equivalent of the iPod. None of [the rival products] have captured hearts and minds of consumers the way the iPod has,'” Borland reports. “Along with new customisation features, the player will include a new “digital media mall” containing links to services such as Napster, MusicNow and CinemaNow that distribute online content in Microsoft’s media formats.”
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