Microsoft announces Plus package for Windows XP

Voice control for Windows Media Player and three-dimensional screen savers are two of the functions that will be included in Microsoft Corp.'s Plus for XP software, which is scheduled to ship with the new Windows XP operating system in less than one month, the software company announced Wednesday.

Like previous versions of Plus that have been sold alongside Microsoft's operating systems since Windows 95 was launched, the new version of the Microsoft Plus package includes a number of enhancements that are aimed at adding a little more enjoyment, rather than productivity, to the system.

Leading the features in the new version is the voice command software which, according to Microsoft, allows users to issue instructions to the Media Player software using around 40 preprogrammed commands, such as "Media Player, play," or "Media Player, next." Also on a musical theme, the package includes software designed to boost clarity and richness of sound on PC speakers, the company said in a statement.

Microsoft is also including software that will convert MP3 audio files into its own proprietary Windows Media format, a jukebox-like application that allows users to compile custom playlists, and a CD label and jacket maker application that automatically adds artist, track and album information.

A number of new screen savers, among them an on-screen aquarium and space walk, and desktop themes, including nature, space and da Vinci, are also part of the Plus package as are a number of 3D games. These include a PC version of the Hyperbowl bowling game, a tabletop labyrinth game and a new puzzle game called Russian Squares.

The company has been shipping its Plus package of add-ons for the Windows operating system since it moved from the Windows 3.x platform to Windows 95 in 1995. At that time, Plus including a number of features such as a task scheduler called System Agent, a more efficient disk drive compressor than was included in the operating system, many desktop themes and the first version of a new Web browser -- Internet Explorer. Microsoft Plus for XP will ship with Windows XP on October 25 and carries a price of US$39.95.

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