Windows Media Player 9 beta debuts

Microsoft has released for free download the first public beta of Windows Media Player 9, offering faster streaming and better compression, high-quality music playback, and support for multichannel movie surround sound, plus other features - if, that is, you're running Windows XP. A separate edition of WMP9 will run on older versions of Windows back through Windows 98 SE.

Microsoft has added CD burning from within the player, and you can also burn Windows Media Audio (WMA) files. Although WMP9 will play MP3 files, you'll still need to purchase a third-party encoder/decoder (codec) to rip or burn MP3s.

Music subscription services are supported, and although only PressPlay is featured in the beta, Microsoft expects to add more in the shipping version. A new Internet radio tuner and media guide - available to all - will be added when WMP9 ships. The Info Center view provides a tag editor and links to a free online service that will match your songs or albums with a database of information such as discographies, artists' Web sites, band photos, and cover art.

The updated Windows Media Player is not included in Windows XP Service Pack 1. It is likely, however, to be part of future updates of Windows XP.

Windows Media Player 9

Price: Free.

Phone: 13 2058.

URL: www.microsoft.com.au.

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