May 15, 2006 12:55 PM PDT

Public gets peek at Windows Media Player 11

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Taking aim at the dominance of Apple Computer, Microsoft this week is launching a test version of a revamped jukebox aimed at trying to knock iTunes down a peg.

Microsoft plans to make the beta of Windows Media Player 11 available for free to Windows XP users on Wednesday, but some consumers got an earlier look by scooping up a portable device optimized for the new jukebox.

The new media player is Microsoft's latest attempt to unseat Apple, whose sales of both music and digital music players have consistently outpaced those of competitors.

Microsoft says despite Apple's big lead, the competition for online music supremacy isn't nearly over. Redmond's strategy is to attract the enormous number of people who have yet to buy a digital music player, says Geoff Harris, product unit manager for Windows Media Player.

"Remember the digital market represents only 5 percent of the total market," Harris said "That means that 95 percent are still buying in traditional means. At the end of the day, this (segment) is still in its infancy."

Although the official launch of the media player beta isn't expected until Wednesday, consumers could find the software inside iRiver's Clix digital music player, which went on sale Monday.

The also was offering free copies of WMP 11 on its site.

For this go-round at challenging the tight grip that Apple's iTunes and iPod have on the music market, Microsoft is trying a swarm approach, choosing to partner with powers inside the music industry--aiming to offer a hipper alternative than it has in the past--as well as with hardware manufacturers. The software company has teamed with music icon MTV and its new subscription online music service, called Urge, to help attract fans. Urge was available on Monday, but it won't make an official debut until Wednesday.

Images: Window Media Player 11

The partnership with MTV is not exclusive. Microsoft's software will also work with music services MSN Music and Napster and will be featured in several other devices, including those made by Samsung and Creative. And although this is Microsoft's attempt to have services, software and players that more easily work with one another, it still doesn't work with the leading player--Apple's iPod.

WMP 11 will be available both for Windows XP and Vista, but on different timetables.

The beta that Microsoft is making available for download on Wednesday is of Windows Media Player 11 for Windows XP. Windows Media Player 11 has been in beta testing--as part of Windows Vista--for several months, though until Monday, the Urge service has not been available.

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Video: Windows Media Player 11 reviewed
Microsoft's best answer to Apple to date?

The Vista version of Media Player 11 will have features not in the XP incarnation, though Microsoft has not said which features will be in which versions.

Vista, due to launch next year, is in limited testing now, with a broader test version expected to be made available to about 2 million testers this quarter.

WMP 11 has, so far, received favorable reviews (click here for comments from And even though it doesn't work with the iPod, WMP 11 includes several features to help it compete with iTunes.

First, the software is designed to make it easier to scroll through long music libraries. WMP 11 identifies music with photos of album covers. On iTunes, music lists are identified by text only, meaning a user must wade through long blocks of type.

The software also includes a sort of gas gauge that indicates visually how much room is left on a portable player for additional music.

MTV's Urge is integrated into WMP 11 and offers more than 2 million songs, which are available for 99 cents apiece. Users also have two subscription-service options, one priced at $9.95, the other at $14.95.

The software will also be included in the Windows Vista operating system, due to launch next year. The final version of WMP 11 is due to ship later this year.

CNET's Ina Fried contributed to this report.

See more CNET content tagged:
digital music player, MTV, digital music, Microsoft Windows Media Player, music player


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But how much DRM??!!
How much DRM?
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
To much!
Which is why online music sales will always be 5% of the market!

When I purchase music to OWN (not to lease) I have the right to play that music where-ever when-ever how-ever, for personal use of course, regardless of what the Music Indutry says.

DRM does not allow me to download an audio file and play it in any device. Meaning I am locked into listening to that track with the device i downloaded it for. Of course this wouldn't be a problem if it was legal to drive with headphones on, but it's not, and so I am stuck unable to listen to my tracks I purchased.

Thankfully CD's are still around so I can convert them to Mp3's and play them anywhere I want. Don't get me wrong I like the idea of DRM when done properly, with only one standard!

When they stop trying to make us purchase a track for every device we use then maybe online music sales will increase.
Posted by TheShane (55 comments )
Link Flag
MTV was cool in the 80s
MTV was cool in the 80s. Microsoft, IMO, has never been cool, or
hip. And this won't work with the massively cool iPod.

I don't see this as a big thing at all... I could be wrong, but I
wouldn't bet on it being anything more than just another attempt.
Posted by SeaMoose77 (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Does MTV play any music anymore??
What a perfect combination. Microsoft hip? With geeks. How about
the rest of us?

Windows is a utility. Mac OS for your "life".
Posted by technewsjunkie (1265 comments )
Link Flag
80s 90s & today
MTV was hip in the 80s
Microsoft was hip in the 90s
iPod and Google are hip in the 00s.

Who wants to go back?
Posted by t8 (3716 comments )
Link Flag
"MTV is to music... KFC is to chicken."

-Lewis Black
Posted by kaufmanmoore (42 comments )
Link Flag
A little confused...
When has Microsoft ever, and I mean ever been on the "cutting
edge" of technology? I mean heck Mr. Gates got lucky through a
legal blooper way back when with IBM.

So here he is again, trying to make some money taging along
like he normally does on someone elses idea. And many people
call this inspirational technology? I think it's an absolute shame.

So, let's see now..Apple came with the GUI OS, then Windows
copied the GUI and marketed it as "their idea", Apple came with
QuickTime, then Windows came later with WMV. Nintendo or
Sony came up with the game consol like playing system, then
Windows follows that band wagon and makes XBox. Apple then
came with the iTunes music store and a remarkable player called
the iPod. Now Windows in all their mighty foresight, has decided
to come up with a iTunes killer application with it's partner in
crime MTV (input snooze button here).

When are people ready to give this Washington State company
the boot? Nothing innovative, nothing original, nothing we
haven't seen before, yet people continually flock to this
behemoth company? Why, I just don't see the reasoning.

Oh wait until you see their next OS Vista...OMG, can you say
"carbon copy" of OS X? Yet people will again think it's innovative
and state of the art, when it's nothing more than a rip-off from
another companies ideas.....(IE vs. Netscape comes to mind too).

Posted by (20 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yes but!
Microsoft absolutely believes in the freedom to imitate, but not as much as the Linux guys. ;-)
Posted by David Dudley (446 comments )
Link Flag
Both MSFT and Apple Copy
Where was the Mac in 1998 when digital music was starting to make big waves? Nowhere. Steve Jobs himself admits that he felt stupid that he originally didn't see how important the MP3 revolution was going to be. The early players: Winamp, Napster, MusicMatch,, and the Rio 300 portable MP3 player... where was Apple? Nowhere. Where was Microsoft? Nowhere.

The genius of Steve Jobs was that he saw how difficult it was for the average person to get into MP3s with the hardware and software of the time, and he designed a player (iPod) and a simple delivery system (iTunes/iTMS) using superior design to what was on the market at the time.

The original ideas (e.g., music downloads, portable MP3 devices, etc.) belonged to someone else. So, in a sense, Steve Jobs copied other ideas, but he improved them through better design.

Microsoft is trying to do the same. IMHO, WMP 11 offers some improvements over what Apple and others have done. You may argue over which is better, but the point is we have some competition in this space which is good. It will keep all the players on their toes and give them incentives to improve their products. What could be better?
Posted by mrvista (22 comments )
Link Flag
"the dominance of Apple Computer"
Tee hee.

Get a grip.
Posted by technewsjunkie (1265 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I b compfoosed
Odd, isn't it, how every song I've purchased through iTunes
somehow has album art attached to it?
I mean... has the writer of this article ever used iTunes? Bueller?
I dunno, maybe I've got the double secret probation version of
iTunes that's only available through magical means installed, but I
sure as heck am looking at album art, not just "lines of text".
Posted by GGGlen (491 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Let's see here....Windows Media Player has no "integrated" music service, requires subscriptions on the music services it offers, connects with many different branded mp3 players but usually not very easily, and offers a generic and often confusing way to move music to your portable player, and doesn't connect with iPod...a player over 50% of the world has.

Apple on the other hand has it's music service all handled by one company, has limited subscription and mostly pay as you go, connects with any iPod seamlessly, and offers an easy and intuitive way of moving music to your player.

If microsoft really wanted to make an impact on Apple's dominance, they need to focus on consistancy and ease of use. Apple was able to sell 35 million iPods last year just based on those two principles. Microsoft should be making their own players with similar interfaces (pc and music player), and not rely on the "buy from a player from your chioce of 4000 different companies, cross your fingers, and hope it works" philosophy.
Posted by alawaiblowfish (36 comments )
Reply Link Flag
>Apple on the other hand has it's music service all handled by one company,<

Yup, a core value of Apple Computer is that their customers should not be given any choices. The only choices allowed are Apple, Apple, or Apple.
Posted by john55440 (1020 comments )
Link Flag
WMP 11 Wow!!
I think Microsoft is on to something here. Hey wait a minute.. its
been done before. So what exactly is all the fuss? What the hell
is new?? Low and behold its just another Itunes. Big deal!

Just wish they would be more diligent and responsible with Vista
as well or atleast honest with its customers.

Truth is. Who needs another service? Especially one thats
branded with the MS logo. Sheesh like I want to give Bill Gates
more money. This guy was born with a silver spoon in his

I say boycott MS products today, this article is just another
marketing spam for MS. I'm sick of seeing anything Microsoft
without seeing any hardcore evidence that their actually coming
out with something revolutionary.

CNET needs to grow up and stop spreading this filth.
Posted by ServedUp (413 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I'm afraid the history is repeating, but now in the portable media device market. Remember how popular the Apple ][ was until the release of the IBM PC? If I were in 1980 I'd doubt that there were a better computer than Apple ][. It's just brand stuff.
Posted by Juanchito_2006 (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
There is a difference
The PlayForSure stuff has been around for a while now and has no foothold. There are lots of players that come and go in the market and generally end up giving up. Remember Rio and the Karma? How about the Dell DJ? Soon, it will be "do you remember Creative Labs?"

Microsoft cannot market their brand to the consumer. They are often times seen as a generic computer company with no real identity - just the status quo.

Ask the average consumer what music store they use - most will say iTunes. Ask them what the difference between, Rhapsody, Napster or Y! Music Engine is and you'll get a ton of blank stares. None of these companies with all their marketing folks and money can chip away at Apple.

Now, the question remains - will the MTV store actually make consumers stand up and take notice? Will it make any kind of dent in the iTunes/iPod juggernaut? Perhaps it is best to ask the Napster folks after all the money they spent advertising, and take into account that they attempted to leverage a well known brand.
Posted by David Dudley (446 comments )
Link Flag
High Impact? lol
Microsoft, MTV, and iRiver have joined forces to offer...a music
store and 99 cent downloads?

Sorry kids, but it's just too late now. You had you're chance early
in the game and you blew it, big time. Even now, this isn't much
more than Microsoft's latest attempt to push it's proprietary drm
software, yet another sheep in wma clothing. Problem is that it's
Windows OS only, and the even bigger problem is no iPod

Which begs the question: What are these guys (and for that
matter, cNet) thinking? Everyone is simply going to ditch their
iPods, trash their iTunes software and REPURCHASE over ONE
BILLION SONGS already bought and paid for via the iTunes Music
Store ?

At this point in the evolution of digital music downloads, if your
just gonna try yet another knock-off of iTunes and the iPod, and
offer NOTHING in terms of added value (or frankly, any
perceived value whatsoever) or advanced useful features that
Apple doesn't offer, you're little endeavor is stillborn.

When these clowns come up with something that's truly creative
and unique, wake me up. Low-impact isn't even accurate,
laughable is more like it.
Posted by Terry Murphy (82 comments )
Reply Link Flag
photos of album covers???
"WMP 11 identifies music with photos of album covers. On iTunes, music lists are identified by text only, meaning a user must wade through long blocks of type."

Am I supposed to understand iTunes shows no covers? Or that iTunes is hard to navigate? And that in WMP this all will be a breeze?

Well, I don't know, but up 'till now it has been the other way round, so we'll see...
Posted by huddie klein (70 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Where is the album art?
I have a number of CD's pre ripped onto my PC before i upgraded to WMP 11 and all the album art i get is a pic of a blank CD and "Paste art here".

Paste Art here?? are you having a laugh!, I, we, the public, are NOT going to faff about looking for pics to drag and drop into our music libary. If album art is going to be a major advantage then surely album art should be placed automatically!

I've looked into this and yes i've done the whole connect to internet and update media info but still no joy on the album art updating.

It does work if you rip a cd in WMP11 though, just not for cd's burn previously. It also strangley enough works for music downloaded from Napster in WMP10, Napster is not yet available for WMP11.
Posted by TimonGB (2 comments )
Link Flag
Microsoft + URGE + Creative lawsuit = very suspicious
Within 24 hours:

1. Microsoft launches initiative to unseat iPod.

2. Creative, a Microsoft partner, sues Apple for patent violation
and seeks an injunction against sales of iPod.

I wonder if this is a coincidence?!
Posted by dotmike (154 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I think I'll just keep illegally acquiring music
Like going to my local library and sitting down with my laptop and ripping all of the Mozart and Beethoven CD's I want. Or getting copies of songs from friends. Or using P2P networks.

If I was ever going to actually pay for music, I wouldn't get it off of an online store. I would go out and buy the album and rip the songs because then I OWN them, I'm not just leasing them.

What kind of crap are these music companies trying to get away with?!?! Telling us that they want our money but don't want to give us a product?!? Not that they really have anything good to offer. The quality of music is hitting an all time low in the history of music. Hopefully everything will cycle and we will see better music being produced in 30 years from now, if we're still around.
Posted by coryschulz (326 comments )
Reply Link Flag
and i thought i was pretty original when i thought of that
the public library is an excellent source of a wide variety of musical genres. and, as a public resource supported by my taxes, i indirectly own everything in the library, including the music, so i don't feel too awful about backing up "my" copies of bach on the harpsichord and art tatum's finest hour.

another useful technique is buying up packets of CDs from BMG, ripping them, and then reselling on Amazon. you can net anywhere from $0-$5 per CD. i would guess i made around $300 on my last 5 memberships. you have a to be a little patient though, so it might not be for everyone. but it sure beats paying $1 per song, which is a rip off.

incidentally, most of the CDs i have done this with were ones that i previously owned until my car was broken into and i lost about 150 discs. none of them were backed up because that was back in 1998.

i have never used p2p and don't plan on it. too illegal and too unsafe.
Posted by mgwatson (61 comments )
Link Flag
I'm definitely SORRY for u , if u see the cd itself or cdcase as a product not the music inside when u buy a mucis cd.
Posted by Chameleon81 (60 comments )
Link Flag
I'm definitely SORRY for u , if u see the cd itself or cdcase as a product not the music inside when u buy a mucis cd.

if you want to have "product" just go the computer shop buy yourself 100 of cds for 10-20 bucks
Posted by Chameleon81 (60 comments )
Link Flag
Where's the Innovation?
I hate to say it, but Microsoft is nothing but a glorified copy-cat. Vista? WMP 11? Live? Xbox?! IE7?...

Where's the innovation? Nothing new comes out of Microsoft anymore. It's all yesterday's technology/ideas updated with more labels, packaging, and re-branding.

Microsoft is quickly - with Firefox and Apple chipping away at market share - losing support from all kinds of people, even those who have been with them since birth. I used a Windows machine since 1992 when I was in 2nd grade. When Firefox and Thunderbird first came out, I all but uninstalled IE and Outlook. Then just late last year I made the switch to an Apple computer.

Microsoft already lost me. How many more do they have to lose before they start innovating.. something - anything at this point?
Posted by jdscardino (22 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Par for the course... Copying is in MS's genes
Well, OK, I haven't bothered to look for a precursor to BOB...
Posted by mgreere (332 comments )
Link Flag
Media Player11
Wmp11 would be truly useful if it allowed LP& cassette recording.
Posted by microraptor (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
No XP 64 support
Like most of Microsoft's software betas, WMP 11 does not suport Windows XP 64. The same is true for Windows Live One Care. This should be no surprise considering the difficulty of simply purchasing Windows XP 64. It is unfortunate that Microsoft is neglecting its only 64 bit operating system. Other than lack of Microsoft software support, it has performed extremely well for me.
Posted by grangerfx (41 comments )
Reply Link Flag

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