May 15, 2006 10:09 AM PDT

Windows Media Player 11 an iTunes contender?

review Windows Media Player 11--which debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year and features a visually appealing interface, as well as impressive features and performance--is Microsoft's best jukebox to date.

Not that it was a grand feat to improve upon a generally disappointing string of versions, including the somewhat awkward version 10. Still, if Microsoft is ever going to seriously challenge Apple Computer's iTunes music empire, the time is now. With the addition of MTV's Urge, the jukebox's resident music service, WMP 11 (available today as a free beta download) certainly seems poised for battle.

Windows Media Player 11

It's not like Microsoft had trouble distributing any version of WMP; after all, the jukebox comes with any Windows system, and in fact, you can't get rid of it. The trouble was that the software was never particularly compelling, though it was pretty much essential for users of non-iPod MP3 players. With this beta launch, Microsoft has transformed its omnipresent media player from a state of default mediocrity into a powerful must-have application for music and media.

Windows Media faithful will be pleasantly surprised upon installing the revamped WMP 11 for XP; Microsoft has put significant effort into creating a seamless digital-media environment for the user, the software, the service and portable devices.

WMP 11 for Windows XP is at its core the same jukebox you'll experience for the upcoming (but tardy) Vista operating system. It all begins with the interface: Microsoft product managers admitted that it needed to be much simpler, more visual and more like iTunes.

Rather than dumbing down the graphical interface, Microsoft has smartened it up with wise design decisions that open up the desktop without eliminating the powerful features within. For example, the playback controls (at the bottom) are now glossy and inviting, and they include repeat and shuffle options.

Additionally, the back and forward navigation buttons in the upper-left corner ensure that you'll never get lost. However, the revamped menu buttons have the most significant impact on the interface. Boiled down to five choices--Now Playing, Library, Rip, Bun and Sync--each button has its own subbutton that opens up a slew of useful menu items. So when you activate the split menu for Rip, you'll get options to adjust format, bit rate and so on.

Click here to Play

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

Another noticeable--and welcome--interface change is that WMP's frustrating, ever-expanding left-nav tree has been simplified to include only music info by default, thus eliminating the long, scrolling list in the navigation. You can simply click the library split button to get to the video or photo libraries, which have their own dedicated set of nav-pane options.

The main browser window has also been radically altered: No more boring, anonymous text on a dark background. Instead, you get a colorful album art-driven view of music, thumbnail views of photos and screenshot thumbs of their video files, all on a light-color background. This not only makes it easier to locate and manage files, but it also gives the player some much-needed personality.

CONTINUED: Nobody likes missing album art…
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98 comments

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iPod
So can it play iTMS music? If not, not interested.
Posted by samkass (310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
re:
it won't
Posted by darrius3365 (98 comments )
Link Flag
can't find it
It seems like this download is buried deep in the Micrsoft site. Has anyone else found it?
Posted by darrius3365 (98 comments )
Reply Link Flag
re:
nevermind. it looks like the release date will be Wednesday the 17th.
Posted by darrius3365 (98 comments )
Link Flag
Sounds great, but&
I read the PC Magazine review, and I must admit, this sounds
like a pretty cool program. Unfortunately (as has already been
mentioned), it wont work with iPods andmore importantlyit
wont work with Mac OS. I doubt theyre going to get too many
people to downgrade their computers (or even take the time to
launch Ms Windows) just to use a music player that really
doesnt add any truly compelling features.

One much-touted feature, for example, is WiMP 11s ability to
arrange your photos, as if thats something iTunes is seriously
lacking. iTunes has handled photos for over a year, but Ive
frankly never really seen the draw to having your digital photos
lumped in with your digital music. Who came up with that idea?
(Even if you like it, Id argue that Front Row handles it much
better than what Ive seen of WiMP.)

I give them a lot of credit for the album art view and the sub-
summary by artist, but I expect Apple will rip Ms off just like Ms
rips off Apple. Especially given the fact that WiMP 11 wont be
ready for prime time until Ms Windows Vista ships (pushed back,
yet again, to April 2007, last I heard), I really dont see why
anyones even mentioning this (unless, of course, it involves
many millions from M$s marketing budget).

Just my 2¢.
Posted by the Otter (247 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Oh, my mistake.
I thought that ninety percent of consumers were running on Windows and less than ten percent were on Mac, which would make WMP 11 a good answer to iTunes for those of us who have opted for better-quality players than the iPod. I guess I was wrong, but I'd like to know when this swing occured so that I can mark it on my Google Calendar.
Posted by bourgtai (105 comments )
Link Flag
What a waste of code.
WMP a competitor to iTunes!?? ROFL

Good one!
Posted by TyTyson (154 comments )
Reply Link Flag
agreed.
ROFLMAO. 2 BAD WMP, BRB LOL.
Posted by assman (1101 comments )
Link Flag
It's not the player, it's the package
Is the new Windows Media Player better than iTunes. Who cares?
When it comes to digital music, iTunes is an example of the MS
Windows story in reverse.

Apple has a good enough player (IMO a great player). But
package it with a great music site, and the world's most popular
portable music device and you have a winning combination.

Based on sales, it looks like very few people like any of the sites
that sell WMA encoded music or the portable music devices that
play it. A new player won't change that.
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Want Subscription Model - Not iTunes
With a subscription model, I could listen to an unlimited number of new-to-me songs, for a flat monthly fee. I have no interest in the iTunes pay-per-song model.

I look forward to learning the details of Amazon.com's rumored forthcoming subscription music service.
Posted by john55440 (1020 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You are in luck
Why wait for Amazon? If you don't like iTunes, you already have a
wide selection of subscription sites from which to choose.

They all offer music in Windows Media format, and they are all
begging for customers.
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Link Flag
Oh stop trolling
There are PLENTY of subcription based services out there, and
they're ALL getting beaten by iTunes. Therefore, MOST people don't
want subcription services.
So you prefer one? Great! Go join one and go away.
Posted by GGGlen (491 comments )
Link Flag
Get XM radio.
I know of at least one person who uses the subscription base system (rhapsody I think) and they compare it to XM radio in the sense that it's just like paying to listen to radio where you get to select the songs you want. They also just stopped using it after a year and were pretty disappointed that they had nothing to show for it (just like XM radio I think).

However, I think of it like any rental service. Some people like renting a DVD and some people like buying them. I think if you could buy or rent a Movie on the Internet that was very close to DVD quality (and could download it in a timely manner) it would hurt movie stores.

Over all if you like the subscription services then use them. You will definately get a wider selection of players. iTunes and iPod are not for everyone.
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
Link Flag
Maybe Microsoft just "doesn't get it"?
I tried, I mean I really tried to like some of the subscription
based services out there, but fer cry'n out loud, I can't stand
music encoded in WMP.
When Napster gave out trial subscriptions, I downloaded 600
songs. I expected them to sound "less than cd quality", but I
didn't expect them to sound as badly as they did when
compared to identical songs downloaded from the iTunes store.
Call me strange, but the point of me downloading music is to
download something that I'll listen to, and from what I've heard,
WMP just isn't it.
One thing I did appreciate about Napster, though, was that they
allowed me to preview the songs that I turned around and
purchased from the iTunes store.
Thanks, Napster!
Posted by GGGlen (491 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Maybe Microsoft just "doesn't get it"?
I tried, I mean I really tried to like some of the subscription
based services out there, but fer cry'n out loud, I can't stand
music encoded in WMP.
When Napster gave out free trial subscriptions, I downloaded
600
songs. I expected them to sound "less than cd quality", but I
didn't expect them to sound as badly as they did when
compared to identical songs downloaded from the iTunes store.
Call me strange, but the point of me downloading music is to
download something that I'll listen to, and from what I've heard,
WMP just isn't it.
One thing I did appreciate about Napster, though, was that they
allowed me to preview the songs that I turned around and
purchased from the iTunes store.
Thanks, Napster!
Posted by GGGlen (491 comments )
Reply Link Flag
May be they do
.. and that is why they are responding by updating their user interface. By the way WMP is mathematically a better compression algorithm compared to mp3 (mp3pro is more like WMP). For half the size it gives the same or even better quality. I have encoded all my music in WMP (variable bit rate) and it not only has saved me gigabytes of hard disk space but also sounds better.

Also, I disagree with the notion that windows media player 10 is inferior in anyway. Sure it wasn't designed to be a shopping cart for music but it definitely has tons of features for music library management and other UI features.(background download of track info, skins, visualizations, advanced tag editor, rip and burn are child's play)

iTunes is pretty good but I don't see why one has to trash a perfectly good program to establish that.
Posted by dudegadget (14 comments )
Link Flag
You are correct
So very, very correct.
Posted by shanehughes (6 comments )
Link Flag
No
.
Posted by TarrySingh (29 comments )
Reply Link Flag
With an iPod
For me the problem isn't the music store its syching my iPod. I need to be able to synch my iPod with WMP reliably before I stop using iTunes. Maybe I'm a minority but I have no interest in the iTunes music store selection or file format. It really annoys me how many mp3 players don't give users many options on what software to use.
Posted by Akiba (220 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Use Xplay or Anapod Explorer
If you have no use for the iTunes Music Store, then there are a few software packages that give you more flexibility than iTunes. One is Xplay, available at <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://mediafour.com" target="_newWindow">http://mediafour.com</a>. Another is Anapod Explorer, available at <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://redchairsoftware.com" target="_newWindow">http://redchairsoftware.com</a>. Xplay offers reliable automatic syncing with Windows Media Player. Not sure if Anapod does.
Posted by UnnDunn (55 comments )
Link Flag
napster=poor bitrate
From what I see on the internet, Napster uses a measly 128k bitrate -- which yes, is dismal.
Other services like Yahoo! Music is 192k -- and the quality is very good.

Also if Napster is using the older WMA v8 encoder, that doesn't help either...

Compare codecs and bitrates:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.telefonica.net/web2/audioformats/results_at_192_kbps.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.telefonica.net/web2/audioformats/results_at_192_kbps.htm</a>

Love that Nero AAC MP4!
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Just remember
Nero doesn't make an "AAC MP4", but since they do encode using
the same CODEC as the iTunes store, I agree that they sound better
than WMP.
Posted by GGGlen (491 comments )
Link Flag
Napster is now 192k
Napster recently re-encoded their entire library to 192kbps WMA v9. The best part is if you bought any Napster tracks, you can re-download the upgraded versions at no charge as long as you are within the 3-downloads-per-purchase requirement.
Posted by UnnDunn (55 comments )
Link Flag
Download Windows Media Player 11 here
WMP 11 is now available on Softpedia.

This page has the direct links:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://labnol.blogspot.com/2006/05/download-windows-media-player-11-from.html" target="_newWindow">http://labnol.blogspot.com/2006/05/download-windows-media-player-11-from.html</a>
Posted by amitpagarwal (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Nope - Won't work with my iPod
Why would I download WMP11 if it doesn't work with the best
music player?
Posted by shanehughes (6 comments )
Link Flag
BitTorrent Client Needed
You need a BitTorrent client to download from the site mentioned, which links to another site that does a redirect to the download page.

Have fun.
Posted by mstrclark (62 comments )
Link Flag
Official Microsoft Download Site
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/player/11/" target="_newWindow">http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/player/11/</a>
Posted by mstrclark (62 comments )
Link Flag
Heh
The iPod not only has the best user interface, but the best sound as well. Sorry, but if you don't like the sound coming from the ehadphones maybe you should toss the factory provided ones, or those ****** Bose headphones and opt for some Bang &#38; Olufsens.

iPod&gt;Everything else. Windows user and Mac users alike agree. There is no better digital device like it.
Posted by (461 comments )
Reply Link Flag
...
iPod signal-to-noise ratio: 86 dB

Zen signal-to-noise ratio: 98 dB

I may be mistaken, but is the higher number the better one? I think the higher number's the better one...
Posted by bourgtai (105 comments )
Link Flag
Microsoft hates open standards
iTunes uses open standards for their music formats, such as
AAC and MP3. Microsoft wants us to use THEIR standards only,
so they can reinforced their monopoly on the uninformed
masses.
We already have a great player called iTunes. We don't need
something new just because it's from Microsoft. Gates &#38;
Company will never understand creative processes, and they will
never understand what makes a great program.
Posted by shanehughes (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Typical Schmuck
You're speaking of a topic that should ring in your ears as a mac fanboy...as chances are you don't know much about the company.
Posted by beonedrine (31 comments )
Link Flag
... so does iTunes store follow open standards
Exactly how do you define open standard? Can you play the music bought from iTunes music store on any device other than iPod or any software other than iTunes? So how is it an open standard if you can buy from only one store (compared to 15 different stores available in Windows Media Player) and can play it in only 8-10 different portable media players, all made by the same company (compared to more than a hundred different available models made by more than a dozen companies). you decide, which one is open standard.

BTW, if you don't already know, France passed a law forcing Apple to share it's DRM technology with other companies (Again compared to MIcrosoft which has shared this technology with numerous music stores and device makers)
Posted by ggupta7 (137 comments )
Link Flag
What does the "bun" option do?
From the article...

"Boiled down to five choices--Now Playing, Library, Rip, Bun and Sync--each button has its own subbutton that opens up a slew of useful menu items."

;-)
Posted by open-mind (1027 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's a dessert topping!
The "Bun" option allows you to program your computer to make
buns, of course.

Initially, you'll only be able to make Hot-cross, hamburger and
hot dog, though the latter two will have several size options to
take in to account the various sizes of patty and frank.

Later updates will allow for more pastry goodness to be had.
Various types of donughts, popovers and even several types of
danish.

The Bun Option: It's not just a typo!
Posted by nightveil (133 comments )
Link Flag
Never liked WMP
I don't remember earlier versions, but WMP 9 wasn't too bad, then when they introduced 10. I wasn't impressed because it seemed more complicated then WPM 9. Plus both, versions take up unreasonable amount of computer resources. And because it's a product of MS, you can expect several security vulnerabilities once in a while, so I just quiz using it. Now for videos, I use VLC (plays every format, never had problems, take up very little resources), and Media Monkey for music.
______________________________
R.K.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.Remove-All-Spyware.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.Remove-All-Spyware.com</a>
Posted by Roman12 (214 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is Lame
You guys spend two pages breathlessly talking up the features of an application in which nothing is really new? This thing is full of "seen that-done that" all over it.

And do you really think that all those songs people are buying from iTunes that they'll gladly dump them for this application?

Good market research would say that the digital music distribution market is over, and Apple won. The next market is video, and Apple has already started down that road while MS is creating un-novel applications for a market they've already lost.

Add to all that, this thread will no doubt descend into the typical PC-Mac wars, which are just as meaningless at this juncture.
Posted by R. U. Sirius (745 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Huh?
.....What were we talking about again?
Posted by EricDaEvilGenius (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Jeeeezzz....
"Uh-huh...
Reader post by: bourgtai
Posted on: Mon May 15 17:00:43 PDT 2006
Story: Windows Media Player 11 an iTunes contender?
On the subject of user interface, the buttons on my Zen Xtra are
arranged in such a way that a) I don't have to look at them in
order to know where they are, b) I don't have to worry about any
of them accidentally getting pressed while the player is in my
pocket, mea"...

What the **** has this got to do with WMP 11 ? Please stick to
the topic.... =(

Regarding WMP11 it sure looks like **** ,kinda like wanna-be-
aqua (apple anno 2002). but that doesn´t mean it isn´t a good
player. As it is I am on Macs so I probably won´t get to try it out
( if I don´t buy an Intel-Mac and fire up Boot Camp...)
Posted by Geir Werner Hagen (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Apple Geek please calm down LOL
Would Apple Geek please calm down a little bit.

I love Itunes and I've been using for a couple years. I love it's simplicy and how well it organized all my(45,000)songs, all mp3. I have used winamp, musicmatch, realplayer, wmp 10 but nothing compares to my itunes until yesterday after I install wmp11.

I've been using wmp11 for a couple of days and I feel like i'm cheating on itunes because it was my favorite player for so long.

I hate to admit but wmp11 is a prettier and more colorful media player. The album art brings this media player to new level. My advice to people is to use it, then judge it.

There is a plugin available for your ipod, it's really not that hard. And those 25 songs you bought from itunes(that's what the average ipod owner buy from itms), you can convert to mp3.

I hope itunes comes out with something similar because I really like the album art, it makes everything very neat, as oppose to the old text and line.

I will still use itunes now and then, but it's not my default player anymore.
Posted by Miket019 (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
OOOOOOH KAY ... where'd ya get the 25?
Did you work on this project or something?! Sounds like you are
one of the programmers.

"... 25 songs ... average ipod owner buys ..." what a crock!
About 50 million iPods sold world-wide, and over a purchases
world-wide. I don't know how you came up with an average of
25 songs per iPod owner, but you must be insane, or just can't
add, or something else. But then you could be all at once. I
would not know.

Personally I have over nearly two thousand purchases, not
including my own library, and I have no idea if I am an "average"
ipod owner.
Posted by Thomas, David (1947 comments )
Link Flag
Apple Geek please calm down LOL
Would Apple Geek please calm down a little bit.

I love Itunes and I've been using for a couple years. I love it's simplicy and how well it organized all my(45,000)songs, all mp3. I have used winamp, musicmatch, realplayer, wmp 10 but nothing compares to my itunes until yesterday after I install wmp11.

I've been using wmp11 for a couple of days and I feel like i'm cheating on itunes because it was my favorite player for so long.

I hate to admit but wmp11 is a prettier and more colorful media player. The album art brings this media player to new level. My advice to people is to use it, then judge it.

There is a plugin available for your ipod, it's really not that hard. And those 25 songs you bought from itunes(that's what the average ipod owner buy from itms), you can convert to mp3.

I hope itunes comes out with something similar because I really like the album art, it makes everything very neat, as oppose to the old text and line.

I will still use itunes now and then, but it's not my default player anymore.
Posted by Miket019 (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I like it
It's not quite AmaroK or Konqueror, but they've
done a very respectable job in ripping off those
apps. In WMP12, I suspect they'll have fully
implemented the features and functionality found
elsewhere today -- quite an accomplish for
Microsoft.
Posted by Zymurgist (397 comments )
Reply Link Flag
TAG YOUR IT
This industry, the computer "world" so to speak, is huge. It covers all aspects of our lives, practically every kind of business on the planet. What has suddenly struck me as tragic, maybe cosmically funny, is we see nearly the ENTIRE personal computer industry chasing down the little guy.

Man, I can picture it in my head now. It little tiny Steve Jobs, and a few pals, with a multi-colored ball, being chased by a bunch of bullies threatening to beat them up.

My point is, there are a lot of balls around, why is everyone trying to take the one Apple is playing with? And what is the rest of Apples gang doing back at the house while Steve plays hide and go seek?

TAG YOUR IT
Posted by Thomas, David (1947 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Nope
See, here's the thing. Any digital music source is only as good as
the music on it. Now then, iTunes has a proven and profitable
track record, it's well entrenched with the public.

Are you going to sign over your music library to the new kid on the
block (big risk), or the proven winner?
Posted by Gromit801 (393 comments )
Reply Link Flag
All I know is...
URGE offers the ability to re-download already-purchased songs onto your computer if you lose them, which is a feature I hope iTunes users don't ever need, because they don't got it.
Posted by bourgtai (105 comments )
Link Flag
It is nice
After using this for a couple of hours, I have to say it's got a clean interface and is rather intuitive. I know, Mac **** are going to get their panties up in a bunch but that's going to happen regardless.
I've used winamp, songbird, wmp10 and several other audio apps and so far so good. Excellent job on the behalf of the MS staff.
Posted by beonedrine (31 comments )
Reply Link Flag
JErks
Why do Jerks on this board constantly think that all of the people
defending iTunes/iPod users are Mac Users when the majority
of the owners USE WINDOWS!

It was Windows users that made the iTunes/iPod combination as
popular as it is today by the sheer numers of those using them.

So if we're going to speak on subjects... let's at least know what
the hell we're talking about...

This particular discussion is now about Macs vs PC's....

It's about iTunes Vs. WMP
Posted by Musica360.com (106 comments )
Link Flag
 

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