Microsoft Delivers Breakthrough Audio and Video Quality With Final Release of Windows Media Audio and Video 8

REDMOND, Wash., March 28, 2001 — Microsoft Corp. today announced the final release of its breakthrough Windows Media™ Audio and Video 8, the first digital media technology to make possible the real-time delivery of full-screen, near-DVD-quality film content over today’s broadband connections. Microsoft® Windows Media Audio and Video 8 delivers a
30 percent improvement in quality compared with the previous version, delivering unmatched quality for narrowband and broadband users. Leading online film and video providers ALWAYSi, CinemaNow Inc., FILMSPEED, IMAX Corp., Intertainer Inc., Kanakaris Wireless and SightSound Technologies have embraced the new technology and are releasing thousands of hours of film content using Windows Media Video 8.

Achieving key benchmarks for the delivery of the highest-quality audio and video in the smallest bandwidth, Microsoft’s new compression technology enables the delivery of film content at near-DVD quality across Internet broadband connections at rates as low as 500 Kbps and near-CD-quality audio at 48 Kbps. To demonstrate the quality of the new codecs, Microsoft is showcasing a selection of films, music and videos at .

“To make digital media part of their daily lives, people demand video that approaches DVD quality and music that sounds just as good as their CDs,” said Will Poole, vice president of the Windows® Digital Media Division at Microsoft.
“Now that Windows Media Audio and Video 8 cross those critical quality thresholds, companies in the film and music industries can deliver on the promise of offering better digital media experiences to their customers using digital media technology.”

The Windows Media Audio and Video 8 codecs are compatible with Microsoft Windows Media Player 7 and 6.4, as well as the new Windows Media Player 7 for Mac, also released today. They offer content owners the benefits of improved quality and lower bandwidth costs while reaching more than 240 million secure Windows Media Players distributed worldwide.

For consumers, the new compression technology delivers a better audio and video experience at all bandwidths. Windows Media Audio 8 nearly triples the audio compression of the MP3 format, making it possible to store almost three times as much CD-quality music on hard drives and portable devices. All the more than 60 consumer devices that support Windows Media Audio today already support Windows Media Audio 8 and require no technology upgrade.

Industry leaders such as Intertainer are embracing Windows Media Video 8 as they expand distribution of full-length motion pictures over broadband networks to PCs and set-top boxes. With films and television content from studios including Warner Bros., Universal Studios, New Line Cinema, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. and DreamWorks SKG, Intertainer has a library of more than 65,000 hours of programming it offers to DSL subscribers. Intertainer and, the wholly owned subsidiary of Broadwing Inc., announced yesterday that will be the nation’s first broadband provider to deploy a video-on-demand service systemwide to more than 40,000 subscribers.

“Intertainer makes its business by delivering a wide selection of high-quality movies over IP networks to consumers’ PCs and televisions,”
said Jonathan Taplin, president and CEO of Intertainer.
“Windows Media Video 8 not only exceeds those quality requirements, it lets us do so with less bandwidth so we reach more customers at a lower cost.”

New Windows Media Video 8: the Only True Motion-Picture-Ready Video Codec

With its industry-leading quality, broad reach and integrated DRM, Windows Media Video 8 is the best technology for both streamed and downloadable movies. Key features of Windows Media Video 8 include these:

  • Near-VHS quality at rates as low as 250 Kbps with 320×240 pixel resolution at 24 frames per second

  • Near-DVD quality at rates as low as 500 Kbps with 640×480 pixel resolution at 24 frames per second

  • The most widely deployed digital rights management (DRM) technology for protecting streamed and downloaded audio and video content on the Internet

For download-and-play uses, Windows Media Video 8 provides true variable bit rate (VBR) and two-pass encoding. True VBR encoding eliminates the 25-second barrier of other technologies, instead averaging encoding resources over an entire feature-length film and guaranteeing the best video quality, even through extended high-action sequences.

IMAX is now using Windows Media Video 8 for trailers that promote IMAX films at its own Web site ( ) and other sites like ( ).

“IMAX strives to bring the superior quality of The IMAX Experience to the Internet,”
said Michelle Hagen, vice president of World Wide Film Marketing at IMAX Corp.
“That’s why we have relied on FILMSPEED and Microsoft Windows Media Video 8 to create the best-quality imagery that meets IMAX’s rigorous standards.”

New Windows Media Audio 8 Nearly Triples Music Storage

Delivering the first-ever near-CD-quality sound at 48 Kbps at about one-third the size of a comparable MP3 file, Windows Media Audio 8 nearly triples the digital music storage on portable devices, micro drives, PCs and CD players that support Windows Media Audio. Download times are also more than 60 percent faster, so consumers can spend more time listening to music.

  • Windows Media Audio 8 achieves CD-quality sound at 64 Kbps.

  • Windows Media Audio 8 offers near-CD-quality sound at 48 Kbps, comparable to MP3 files encoded at 128 Kbps.

  • Windows Media Audio 8 is fully compatible with Windows Media Player 6.4, Windows Media Player 7, Windows Media Player 7 for Mac and the more than 60 consumer electronic devices that support Windows Media Audio.

Peer-to-peer solutions developer CenterSpan Communications Corp. plans to adopt Windows Media Audio and Video 8 to facilitate the purchase and exchange of high-quality, copyright-protected music and video between content providers and consumers. Earlier this week, CenterSpan released a beta version of Scour Exchange™
, incorporating the DRM capabilities native to Windows Media.

“As we enter a new phase of digital media and entertainment on the Web, CenterSpan will deliver a service that provides high-quality music and video for customers and secure delivery for content providers,”
said Frank G. Hausmann, CenterSpan’s chairman and CEO.
“Windows Media Audio and Video 8 is an outstanding solution that meets both of these critical requirements for our business today.”

Movies Available for Download and Streaming

By reaching key thresholds for delivering high-quality audio and video over realistic connections, the new codecs also are helping to make possible expanded Internet-based content businesses, unleashing a flow of new content for consumers.

Film content providers announcing that they will use Windows Media Video 8 include ALWAYSi, which offers more than 2,000 movies online in Windows Media Format; CinemaNow, with a library of more than 200 films; CinemaPop, with more than 500 films; Intertainer, with rights to 50,000 hours of content; and SightSound, which is distributing 12 movies for Miramax Film Corp. through Internet download. Content from these and other providers is available at ( ).

The breakthrough quality of Windows Media Audio and Video 8 can be experienced on the special preview page at . Visitors can see and hear the following:

  • From ALWAYSi,
    a short film directed by Richard S. Dargan

  • From CinemaNow,
    a horror film starring Jennifer Aniston

  • From Kanakaris Wireless/CinemaPop,
    starring Chuck Norris and Beau Bridges

    “To Kill a Mockingbird,”
    starring Gregory Peck

  • From SightSound and Miramax,
    starring Sarah Polley, Stephen Rea, Jean Smart and Gina Gershon

In addition, the preview page will feature the Celta de Vigo vs. Stuttgart soccer match from; the trailer for
“The Score,”
a new movie from Paramount Pictures starring Robert DeNiro; and the Rick Dees Weekly Top 40 from PrimeNet.


Content providers can download the new Windows Media Encoding Utility, available today to create audio and video content using Windows Media Audio and Video 8, at . Windows Media Audio and Video 8 also will be supported by the Windows XP operating system, the next version of the Windows operating system.

About Windows Media

Windows Media is the leading digital media platform, providing unmatched audio and video quality to consumers, content providers, solution providers, software developers and corporations. Windows Media offers the industry’s only integrated rights-management solution and the most scalable and reliable streaming technology tested by independent labs. Windows Media Technologies includes Windows Media Player for consumers, Windows Media Services for servers, Windows Media Tools for content creation, and the Windows Media Software Development Kit (SDK) for software developers. Windows Media Player, available in 26 languages, is the fastest-growing media player. More information about Windows Media can be found at .

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq
) is the worldwide leader in software, services and Internet technologies for personal and business computing. The company offers a wide range of products and services designed to empower people through great software — any time, any place and on any device.

Microsoft, Windows Media and Windows are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries.

The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

Note to editors: If you are interested in viewing additional information on Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft Web page at on Microsoft’s corporate information pages.

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