January 5, 2006 12:21 PM PST

MTV gets first crack at Windows' new music

Related Stories

Gates shows off Vista in CES keynote

January 4, 2006

A Firefox for music?

December 22, 2005

MTV, Microsoft band together for music service

December 13, 2005
With a patient look on his face, Bill Gates welcomed pop star Justin Timberlake to the stage Wednesday night during the his keynote speech at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The singer was there, along with MTV Networks head Van Toffler, to tout the Urge music subscription service, soon to be released by MTV. Unlike any rival service, Urge is built directly into Microsoft's upcoming version of the Windows Media Player.

Timberlake

"When I release my new album this year...Urge and I will be doing some new and creative things," Timberlake said, joking that the Microsoft chairman would be joining him in a duet. "Urge offers a new way for artists like myself to specifically reach music fans with a ton of options."

As a buzz builder for a new music service, this was about par. After all, rival Apple Computer has tapped artists from U2 to Wynton Marsalis for its events.

But the flashy unveiling also provided a glimpse of what Microsoft hopes will be the core of a new generation of music services and a revised way to interact with PC-based music--one that extends well beyond MTV and Timberlake.

Windows Media Player 11, set for a March release, with Urge built in, will be a substantial change in the way the Microsoft multimedia player browses and displays music. Rather than a long list of album or artist names scrolling down the left side of the player, a bigger window will show "stacks" of album art, like old record covers piled on top of one another, as a visual cue to show how much content is available.

special coverage
Apple's new crop
Sink your teeth into all the news from this week's Macworld Expo.

For services like MTV's Urge, the player will also download metadata (song titles, album names and so on) for the service's entire catalog of nearly 2 million songs and store it locally on a subscribers' computer, the companies said. That means browsing the huge subscription catalog will theoretically be as fast as looking through everyday files on a hard drive.

A favored partner?
Microsoft's decision to tap MTV as its launch partner for the new Windows Media Player has irked some in the digital-music industry, though others will likely have the ability to place their offerings alongside Urge in the player.

Microsoft has long walked a thin diplomatic line in the music business, offering slots inside the Windows Media Player to a few partners while also giving its own music offerings prime placement.

The situation is even more delicate since a recent antitrust settlement with RealNetworks, in which Microsoft agreed to give Real's Rhapsody music service promotional space at least as prominent as that given any other music service, including its own.

But RealNetworks Senior Vice President Dan Sheeran said MTV's apparent leading roll inside the new Windows music software won't violate the agreement. Rhapsody is being promoted around the MSN network, and links will be built into Microsoft's Messenger and search tools, he said.

"Certainly, we'll take a look at (the new Media Player)," Sheeran said, noting that Rhapsody's approach was to bring people to the Web rather than keep them inside Microsoft's software. "If there's a way to make that architecturally integrated with our approach, we're open to it."

Despite stiff competition from Apple Computer's iTunes player, which has dominated the song download market with its one-click access to the iTunes music store, Microsoft's jukebox software has managed to maintain its dominant player position among PC customers. According to The NPD Group, the Media Player accounts for 45 percent of all PC music playing, while Apple's iTunes captures 17 percent.

But it's not clear just how helpful that's been to the music services built into the player in the past.

An executive at Napster, a music subscription service that served as Microsoft's launch partner for two previous generations of Windows Media Player, said having the service built into the player hadn't led to runaway success.

"Our experience has been that it is certainly a good thing to do for a service like ours," Napster Chief Technology Officer Bill Pence said. "That said, it has by no means provided the majority of our users. Nine out of 10 prefer the standalone Napster client because it really is optimized for music."

19 comments

Join the conversation!
Add your comment
Two things that people want to know: Cost and DRM
If either is high, nobody will go for it, and don't expect people to go for a stupid subscription service either.

Two things
*Cost
*DRM

Everyone wants to also know how much DRM will be infested into each file.
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
disagree
Cost is always important.. I agree with you on that. But on DRM, I have to disagree. The online music industry is in its infancy. The one thing we know for certain is that music and movie studios will not release high-quality content online in a convenient way until they have a grasp on DRM. You'll never convince them to drop all protections... so I say, let the DRM roll... get through a few generations and get it ironed out. It is the inevetable path to progress in this industry whether we like it or not. Rather than fight it, I say we identify problems and get it improved as much, and as quickly, as possible so that content owners can be happy, and consumers can revel in the convenience of online music and movies.
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
Actually there are three things
I agree that cost is the primary factor, as well as DRM, but one of the biggest questions people should be looking at is stream quality. Any music service has a balancing act here: low bitrate -> poor sounding music, high bitrate -> high bandwidth cost. We are already seeing lots of competition on price, but I'd rather see competition on quality instead.
Posted by feliusrex (48 comments )
Link Flag
Not Exactly an Innovative Team
Microsoft and MTV? Let's see here... a company that has made
billions creating copy-cat software teams up with a company
that hasn't been relevant since the 80's...

Yeah, that'll work.

I'm sure the execs at MTV will be in total shock when this
subscription service will fall short (like all other subscription
services have). And the Microsoft Team will continue in it's
persistant denial.

There may be a company that will eventually take away Apple's
market share, but that won't happen until a company offers
BOTH the ability to download actual music files to keep (i.e. to
buy an actual product) and the ability to use those files on an
iPod, which, whatever you'd like to say about it, is the best
selling music player in the world.
Posted by Flernk (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
clueless...
<< Let's see here... a company that has made billions creating copy-cat software teams up with a company that hasn't been relevant since the 80's...>>

What are you talking about? Not relevant? Do you know anything about Viacom or Microsoft at all? Do you have any idea what all Viacom owns? Talk about out of touch....
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
Trust MS/MTV to come up with a music service...
...whose name rhymes with Dirge. It'll be interesting to see if it
lives down to that.

Dirge \Dirge\, n. [Contraction of Lat. dirige, direct thou
(imperative of dirigere), the first word of a funeral hymn
(Lat. transl. of Psalm v. 8) beginning, "Dirige, Domine, in
conspectu tuo vitam meam." See Direct, a., and cf.
Dirige.]

A piece of music of a mournful character, to accompany
funeral rites; a funeral hymn.
[1913 Webster]
Posted by No invasion of privacy (52 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I'm sure
that's the first thing everyone is going to think of, too. Good job though discovering rhyming words!
Posted by Charleston Charge (362 comments )
Link Flag
Subscription music service is a joke!
My prediction, this one will bite the dust.
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hardly
If satellite radio subscriptions are any indication at all... you are totally wrong.
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
MTV
MTV still does music? Really? ..... Interesting.
Posted by (96 comments )
Reply Link Flag
MTV is really...
MTV = "EmptyV"
Posted by thedreaming (573 comments )
Link Flag
Go figure
"Despite stiff competition from Apple Computer's iTunes player,
which has dominated the song download market with its one-
click access to the iTunes music store, Microsoft's jukebox
software has managed to maintain its dominant player position
among PC customers. According to The NPD Group, the Media
Player accounts for 45 percent of all PC music playing, while
Apple's iTunes captures 17 percent."

What?? This makes absolutely no sense.

One major reason Apple dominates online music sales is due to
it's availability on both the Windows and Mac platform, with
Windows admittedly accounting for the lion's share of iTunes.
Since iTunes, the iTunes music store and the iPod go hand in
hand without any detours to WMP, how could "45 percent" (more
than double the percentage of iTunes) be fairly represented
here.

It's not like iTunes purchased music can be played on WMP, and
since WMP has aligned itself with subscription-based services
that are widely acknowledged has having, at best, a poultry
share of the market, what exactly is being played on 45 percent
of WMP players? And what accounts for the 17 percent of iTunes
use?

I smell some bizarre accounting lurking around here.
Posted by Terry Murphy (82 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot

Discussions

Shared

RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.