Q&A: Microsoft Unveils Windows Media Player 7

REDMOND, Wash., Mar. 27, 2000 — Microsoft today announced the Windows Media Player 7 Technology Preview, which offers software developers and advanced PC users a glimpse of the newest version of Microsoft’s popular media player, to be released for consumers later this year. To learn more about the upcoming player, its new features and the benefits to digital media consumers, PressPass spoke with Kevin Unangst, group product manager of Microsoft’s Digital Media Division, about the upcoming player and the features consumers can expect to see.

PressPass: What are you announcing today?

Unangst: We’re announcing availability of the Windows Media Player 7 Technology Preview, now available for downloading. This is an early, pre-beta look at our player for software developers, technical evaluators and advanced PC users.

Windows Media Player 7 is the latest version of our easy-to-use media player that delivers the first fully integrated digital media experience, enabling consumers to enjoy the full range of digital media activities, including playback of CD audio, streaming and downloaded audio and video, jukebox capabilities for CD recording, media management, Internet radio and innovative integration to support the next generation of portable music devices. We have completely redesigned its unified user interface for common digital media activities, with one-click access to the features and content consumers want most.

PressPass: What’s new in Windows Media Player 7?

Unangst: Windows Media Player 7 contains hundreds of new features that enhance the digital media experience for consumers. For example, the new player has an integrated jukebox that includes playback, jukebox recording, a media library and playlist features, as well as the ability for consumers to take their music anywhere and transfer their music libraries to the next generation of portable music devices — palm-size PC devices and Compact Flash readers. It also has a striking new interface with clearly defined buttons that allow easy access to your most frequent activities, and make it easy to find, organize and play your digital audio and digital video.

Visually, it is very exciting. It features customizable “skins” so you can personalize your player. It has controls for brightness, contrast, saturation and hue so you can adjust the picture exactly like you would on a TV. It has a great new 10-band equalizer so you can customize the sound exactly how you want it.

It has a CD-to-PC recorder, allowing you to copy entire CDs to your PC in just a few minutes. You get your CD stored on your PC in the Windows Media Format, which offers CD-quality at half the file size of an MP3 file — doubling the amount of CD-quality music you can story on your PC or device. Also, the WindowsMedia.com Guide — one of the fastest growing digital media guides on the Web today — is integrated into the player and offers easy access to a broad selection of movies, music videos, and CD-quality radio in the Windows Media Format from content providers such as Atom Films, Bloomberg, VH1, ZDTV, Launch, BBC, Fox Sports, MSNBC and many more.

Presspass: How does the new player make digital media more accessible to a broad range of consumers?

Unangst: Consumers today are faced with the confusion of juggling multiple applications and different interfaces for playing their music CDs, streamed or downloaded Internet audio and video, Internet radio, and digital music jukebox applications. Our goal with the new player is to bring digital media to everyday consumers. Windows Media Player 7 is the first to do this, by overcoming common barriers to the mainstream use of digital media and creating a unique new integrated place to enjoy digital media on a PC. We are making the player easy and convenient to use, with one-click access to all of the user’s common activities, offering the highest quality audio and video playback, and by making the new player completely customizable.

PressPass: Does Windows Media Player 7 support MP3?

Unangst: Unangst: Windows Media Player 7 supports download and stream-based playback of MP3 files and common playlist formats. Microsoft has been supporting MP3 playback in the Windows Media Player since early 1998 through a license we have with FHG.

PressPass: How does the Windows Media Format compare to MP3?

Unangst: MP3 became popular early in the history of digital music, and it offers good sound quality at 128kbps. But the quality quickly degrades at the lower data rates needed to store more than a single CD on most portable players. Conversely, a study by ZD Labs shows that the Windows Media Format delivers CD-quality sound at 64kbps, which is half the file size you would need to get that quality from an MP3. So with Windows Media, you can store twice as much CD-quality music as you can with MP3.

PressPass: Which music companies support Windows Media, and how are they using it?

Unangst: Four out of five of the top music labels deliver their content to consumers using Windows Media today: Sony Music, Warner Music, BMG and EMI. The labels offer both music and music videos in Windows Media.

  • EMI is making 5,000 music videos available in Windows Media format. The company has used Windows Media for important events like the download of new music from David Bowie and Marcy Playground.

  • BMG uses Windows Media for the BMG Artist Showcase, which has featured artists like Foo Fighters and The Artist (formerly Prince). Fourteen BMG artists were included on the recent Microsoft Windows Play Pack CD, a collection of digital entertainment shipped with the Windows 98 SE operating system.

  • Warner Music Group is using Windows Media for PreviewTunes.com, where it spotlights new music from major artists. Warner also uses Windows Media for promotional events featuring downloads of music from artists such as Sugar Ray.

  • Sony Music Entertainment chose Windows Media as the format for a highly successful Mariah Carey download last fall and “Download 2000,” a 10-week series of full-length digital previews being conducted with Launch.com. “Download 2000” features new songs from Sony Music artists like Alice In Chains, Roger Waters, Ben Folds Five, Train and Cypress Hill.

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