ARTICLES IN THE BOOK
A GUIDE TO WINDOWS VISTA
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Windows Media Player (WMP) is a digital media player and media library application developed by Microsoft that is used for playing audio, video and images on personal computers running the Microsoft Windows operating system, as well as on Pocket PC and Windows Mobile-based devices. Editions of Windows Media Player were also released for Mac OS, Mac OS X and Solaris, but have since been discontinued.
In addition to being a media player, Windows Media Player includes the ability to rip music from and copy music to compact discs, synchronize content with a digital audio player (MP3 player) or other mobile devices, and let users purchase or rent music from a number of online music stores.
Windows Media Player replaced an earlier piece of software simply called Media Player, adding features beyond simple video or audio playback.
The default file formats are WMV (Windows Media Video & Audio), WMA (Windows Media Audio), and ASF (Advanced Systems Format), and supports its own XML based playlist format called WPL (Windows Playlist). The Zune software which actually is a modified version of Windows Media Player, additionally supports AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) audio, and MPEG-4 and H.264 video formats out-of-the-box.
The player is also able to utilize a DRM service in the form of Windows Media DRM.
Windows Media Player 11 is the most recent version of the player, which is available for Windows XP as well as Windows Vista. This new version features many changes. The Media Library no longer presents the media items (such as albums and artists) in a tree-based listing. Rather, on selecting the category in the left panel, the contents will appear on the right, in a graphical manner with thumbnails featuring album art or other art depicting the itema departure from textual presentation of information. The new, more graphical interface design has won praise from many reviewers. Missing album art can be added directly to the placeholders in the Library itself. Views for Music, Pictures, Video and Recorded TV are separate and can be chosen individually from the navigation bar. Entries for Pictures and Video show their thumbnails. Windows Media Player 11 also includes the Windows Media Format 11 runtime which adds low bitrate support (below 128 kbps for WMA Pro), support for ripping music to WMA Pro 10 and updates the original WMA to version 9.2.
Other features include:
Microsoft released the first public beta of Windows Media Player 11 for Windows XP (excluding Media Center editions before 2005) on May 17, 2006 and subsequently released the second public beta on August 31, 2006. Then on October 30, 2006, the final version of Windows Media Player was released to the public. Windows Media Player 11 was included in Microsoft's upcoming Windows Vista operating system when it was released in November 30, 2006 (for volume-licenses) and January 30, 2007 (for worldwide retail availability); the Vista version includes some features not found in the XP version. As a result of a European antitrust ruling, Microsoft will also be required to produce "Windows Vista N" editions which do not include Windows Media Player for the European Union market.
The License Management tool available in prior versions of Windows Media Player has been removed since version 11. This prevents users of those music download services from directly using Windows Media Player to back up their licenses and restore them to another computer. The user now must directly use the store's license restoration services.
The Quick Access Menu, which enabled browsing the library via a pop-up menu, has been removed. As a result of this, the library cannot be browsed when the player is in toolbar mode, but files and playlist still can be dropped to play it.
Microsoft has also released versions of Windows Media Player for other platforms including Pocket PC / Windows Mobile, Mac OS, Mac OS X, Palm-size PC, Handheld PC, and Solaris. Of these, only the Pocket PC / Windows Mobile edition continues to be actively developed and supported by Microsoft.
Windows Media Player for Pocket PC was first announced on January 6, 2000, and has been revised on a schedule roughly similar to that of the Windows version. Currently known as "Media Player 10 Mobile", this edition (released in October 2004) closely resembles the capabilities of the Windows version of WMP 10, including playlist capabilities, a media library, album art, WMA Lossless playback, support for DRM-protected media, video playback at 640x480 with stereo sound, and the same Energy Blue interface aesthetics also seen in recent versions of Windows XP Media Center Edition. It also supports synchronization with the desktop version of WMP 10, and additionally supports synchronizing and transcoding of recorded television shows from Media Center. Media Player 10 Mobile is not available as a download from Microsoft; distribution is done solely through OEM partners, and is typically included on devices based on Windows Mobile.
The Zune software is actually a modified version of Windows Media Player. Unlike Windows Media Player, which requires third-party DirectShow filters for playback of AAC, MPEG-4 and H.264 media, the Zune software comes with additional free DirectShow decoders for AAC (Low complexity) (.mp4,.m4a,.m4b,.mov), MPEG-4 (.mp4,.m4v,.mov) and H.264 (.mp4,.m4v,.mov) and thus natively supports playback of these media file types out-of-the-box.
Version 9 was the final version of Windows Media Player to be released for Mac OS X before development was cancelled by Microsoft. WMP for Mac OS X received widespread criticism from Mac users due to poor performance and features. Developed by the Windows Media team at Microsoft instead of the Macintosh Business Unit and released in 2003, on release the application lacked many basic features that were found in other media players such as Apple's iTunes and QuickTime Player. It also lacked support for many media formats that version 9 of the Windows counterpart supported on release 10 months earlier.
The Mac version supported only Windows Media encoded media (up to version 9) enclosed in the ASF format, lacking support for all other formats such as MP4, MPEG, and Microsoft's own AVI format. On the user interface front, it did not prevent screensavers from running during playback, it did not support file drag-and-drop, nor did it support playlists. While Windows Media Player 9 had added support for some files that use the WMV9 codec (also known as the WMV3 codec), in other aspects it was seen as having degraded in features from previous versions.
On January 12, 2006 Microsoft announced it had ceased development of Windows Media Player for Mac. Microsoft now distributes a third-party plugin called WMV Player (produced and maintained by Flip4Mac) which allows some forms of Windows Media to be played within Apple's QuickTime player (and other QuickTime-aware applications). Mac users can also use the free software media player VLC, which is also able to play WMV-3 / WMV-9 / VC-1 Windows Media files
In March 2004, the European Commission in the European Union Microsoft antitrust case fined Microsoft 497 million and ordered the company to provide a version of Windows without Windows Media Player, claiming Microsoft "broke European Union competition law by leveraging its near monopoly in the market for PC operating systems onto the markets for work group server operating systems and for media players". The company has made available a compliant version of its flagship operating system under the negotiated name "Windows XP N", though the product has not been very successful. Windows Vista is also available in "N" editions. Ironically, the Council of the European Union requires the use of Windows Media Player 6.4 or above in order to watch their live streaming media service.