MS makes digital media blitz with Win XP

Hinting at a campaign to govern digital media, Microsoft Corp. announced Wednesday that more than 150 companies are supporting the digital media features in the software maker's new Windows XP operating system (OS), which is being unleashed today.

The parties creating new media products and services around Windows XP include software developers, service providers, consumer electronics and hardware manufacturers and the entertainment industry, the company said.

Microsoft is hoping to gain widespread licensing of its media technologies to make Windows XP media features the technologies of choice among businesses and consumers, especially in the digital audio space. If Microsoft can convince consumers to use Windows Media Audio (WMA) over rival MP3, the company could place itself in an advantageous position in the burgeoning online music market.

Currently, MP3 is considered the standard technology to use when swapping music files over the Internet. Although Windows XP plays MP3 files, it doesn't offer users the ability to copy them. For that, consumers must purchase Windows XP add-ons through Microsoft partners CyberLink Inc., InterVideo Inc. and Ravisent Technologies Inc. The new OS only rips songs in Microsoft's WMA format. This is key for snagging users who default into using the OS's bundled features.

In addition to touting its media wares within Windows XP, Microsoft is betting on increasing the visibility of its formats with the support of entertainment players like online music subscription service Pressplay and online video-on-demand distributor CinemaNow Inc., both of which said Wednesday they were building products and services based on Windows XP digital technologies.

Windows XP also boasts new digital media features designed to attract more companies and users. The new OS includes the DirectShow Video Mixing Renderer, for example, which is a video editing and playback tool that allows developers to create 3-D video. Additionally, Windows XP supports a variety of devices, such as video cameras and CD burners, the company said.

Looking to take advantage of the new features, more than 20 software and hardware makers weighed in Wednesday behind Windows XP digital media, including Mercury Interactive Corp., MusicMatch Inc., Compaq Computer Corp., and Intel Corp. The features are also being backed by 113 Windows Media Service Providers, the company said.

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