Microsoft unveils Corona beta launch details

Microsoft Corp. has announced that its next-generation Windows Media platform, until now known under the code-name Corona, will be launched in public beta in early September and carry the official name Windows Media 9.

The software is based around a new encoding and decoding (codec) engine that is able to compress audio data to half the size of an equivalent MP3 file and is a step beyond the current Windows Media 8 system. Microsoft promises the new codec will enable Windows Media 9 to deliver "dramatic" improvements in quality and speed for dial-up users and enable broadband Internet users to enjoy home-theater quality audio and video.

A public beta trial of the new system will be launched on Sept. 4 at an event in Los Angeles by Bill Gates, Microsoft chairman and chief software architect.

Following the launch, a two-day developer summit will take place at the same location, the Hollywood and Highlands Complex, the company said in a statement. Information regarding the event can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsmedia/wmsummit/ .

In the home-theater area, Microsoft also announced that the U.S. unit of Japan's Pioneer Electronics Corp. will build support for Windows Media 9 into upcoming consumer home theater products. The first product from the company to include the support will be a device called the DigitaLibrary, which will be launched later this year and enable users to access Windows Media content from online content providers and access and play digital audio and video from personal computers, according to Microsoft.

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