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Windows Media Player 7: Did Microsoft Get it Right?

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Microsoft has released the latest Windows Media Player, version 7, and David Strom says in his latest Web Informant newsletter, that this is the way people will access digital music in the future.

Microsoft has learned from watching others, adding features like skins and visualizations that we've seen on MP3 players. They've also built in a sophisticated media browser that helps find music and radio stations.

The new Windows Media Player has to compete not only against competitors like Real Networks -- which is making alliances with both Apple Computer's QuickTime and AOL -- but also against services like Napster and Gnutella, where users get music for free. Ziff-Davis' PC Magazine gives Real Network's RealSystem 8 a higher grade on the quality of its streaming audio. That quality should get even better when streaming Quicktime.

But Strom says that Microsoft has broken through what he calls "a conspiracy against the user" by bringing together a comprehensive way to organize and listen to a variety of types of audio in one application, from music ripped from CDs to MP3s to streaming radio stations.

David Strom

David Strom
Author and columnist
Writes weekly Web Informant newsletter
President of David Strom, Inc.

"People who are into the complete audio-visual experience from their computer right now have a pretty crappy experience overall -- and whether it's because of bandwidth or because they are always on the version behind of the player they need to view the content... or whether it's because they're afraid that if they bring up Napster the FBI is going to be knocking at their door. Whatever the reason, it's just sort of a conspiracy against the user ...Microsoft has listened; they haven't got everything right yet ... but they've really tried to integrate all the various bits and pieces that you need to manage a bunch of different kinds of audio content."

Paul Schindler
Editor of CMP's Byte Online and

"I think it's sweetly innocent to assume that people are willing to pay for their content on the Internet. I think our experience to date indicates that that's a sucker's bet."

Paul Schindler

Dave Sims

Dave Sims
Editorial Director, O'Reilly Network

"There are two ways to look at bandwidth. One is that you can stream something that is fatter and richer. The other is you can, in a lot less time, download and have on your hard drive something that's a lot higher quality.""

Steve McCannell
Associate Producer, O'Reilly Network
Founder, Lost Dog Found Music

"I think Windows dropped the ball. You can record a CD to your desktop only in the Windows Media format, you can't save it as MP3. And MP3 is the way that things are going right now."

Steve McCannell

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