Windows Media player revamped

Microsoft is inviting all comers to test the next version of its Windows Media Player, which has a streamlined interface and new features that better support portable devices.

A technical beta copy of Windows Media Player 10 is now available for download from Microsoft. Company representatives say they plan to use the beta to gather feedback on new features before the final release later this year.

WMP gets more portable

Windows Media Player 10 contains a new version of Windows Media Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology, a copy-protection technique formerly code-named Janus, that enhances the software's support for portable devices, says Jonathan Usher, director of the Windows Digital Media division at Microsoft.

The DRM technology is intended to combat piracy. However, if a portable device supports Windows Media DRM, users will have greater flexibility in storing and saving music on that device, according to Microsoft.

Essentially, the technology will enable music subscription services to offer portable downloads to subscribers who are using compliant portable devices. For example, Napster subscribers can currently download an unlimited number of DRM-protected tracks to their PCs. As long as a user remains subscribed, those tracks will play normally. Once they cancel their subscription, the files can't be played.

Current portable players have no way to check if the license for a protected track is still valid, so users aren't allowed to take tunes from their subscription service on the road. New portable players that support the new DRM scheme, such as upcoming Portable Media Center devices, will change that by including a secure clock that can be used to check if the license for a downloaded track is still valid. If it is, the track plays; if not, it doesn't. This means music lovers will be able to fill their portable players with as many tracks as it can hold for only the US$10 monthly cost of a Napster subscription.

Other new features

The Windows Media Player 10 software also supports portable devices with improved synching operations.

Users with USB mass storage devices will be able to automatically synch media to their players in a number of intelligent ways. For example, a demonstration showed a flash player set to synch up to 230MB of the 4- and 5-star rated songs in the music library.

Also getting better synching support are devices that support a new standard called Media Transfer Protocol (MTP). It's based on the Picture Transfer Protocol, commonly used by digital cameras to communicate with a PC. Basically, MTP is a standard protocol that portable players can use to communicate with a PC and enumerate the system's capabilities. According to Microsoft, MTP support may be available as a future firmware upgrade on some existing devices.

Other improvements in Media Player 10 include a streamlined interface. Basic features like ripping, burning, and synching to devices are easier to find. The look of the window takes up much less space, and no longer has an annoying left-side panel. The design slims down much better, to the point where the window can be resized into a playback controls-only view.

Microsoft is also promising better integration with third-party music stores. The updated Windows Media Player software provides an easy-to-find menu listing stores that plug in to the player. Those stores also have more options for how they can customize their interface within the player.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Eric Dahl

PC World
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Jack Jeffries


As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr


The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?