IMITATION AS FLATTERY

It’s prettier than ever before. It works, arguably, better than ever before. The new Windows Media Player 11, initially introduced as a beta version, is now finally out.
Microsoft, the world’s largest maker of computers, has recently launched WMP 11, a media player that will be part of the new Vista operating system to be out early next year.
The new version is available free of cost only for Windows XP users, so that Mac users have to cool their heels to test this one. When Vista will be launched, the software is going to be a free add-on in the package, like the just-released Internet Explorer 7.
With this new offering, Microsoft seems to have woken up to the needs of its users. The player looks cool and modern. Its user interface (UI in geek-speak) is far better, and it has easy to use buttons that allow you to rip CDs in a hurry and to integrate with portable devices including the Xbox.
WMP 11 boasts of seamless integration with URGE, the digital music store from MTV, which gives you a choice to pick up songs from a bank of millions of titles. Of course, there are plenty of people who will tell you that URGE is the world’s worst collection of online music!
WMP 11 comes with enhanced search capabilities. You can easily scroll and search for music real quick, even if your library contains thousands of songs. Instant Search is the remarkable new feature in 11, with each keystroke narrowing the search results, whether in your own library or in URGE. Mac users are no strangers to these features, with the amazingly powerful Spotlight taking pride of place in OS X, the Tiger.
You can drag-and-drop songs to create playlists, and store these in your MP3 player (surely you don’t use an iPod, do you?). Though Microsoft has a relationship with the MP3 player made by iRiver, it is developing its own iPod killer called Zune. As users know, the world’s largest selling player is the Pod, which needs the iTunes media player installed in your PC.
Back to the 11. It allows you to shuffle songs, navigate easily, and shows you music, photos, and videos by categories. As a user, you can also benefit from the huge network of portable devices that integrate with Microsoft’s products all over the world. Furthermore, in addition to URGE, hundreds of online music and video services and radio stations worldwide are designed to work with Windows Media Player 11.
The player has new formats for ripping and music playback, including Windows Media Audio Professional and WAV Lossless.
Oh, and before one forgets, album art is available, though it may not work if your stars are unlucky! Check out this poser from a user:
“WMP11 Beta made a mess of my album art… turning all my “folder. jpg” images into hidden files that could not be seen, searched, or unhidden.”
In spite of its in-your-face chic, WMP 11 suffers from some incredible flaws. It does not support podcasts. Can you imagine that, in this day and age? They are still going with radio stations. In addition, installation in your PC may be a pretty painful event, if one goes by the many moans resounding in Microsoft’s own discussion lists. Many users have complained about the version 10 working fine, and the comp hanging after installation of version 11. No answers yet from the company’s gurus.
Overall, the new player is like you: cool, savvy and modern.
In fact, it is remarkable how close WMP 11 is coming to iTunes, the slick media player of the Mac.
If imitation is flattery, Microsoft is saying the best things about Apple’s Tiger. Whether you are a Mac addict or a devoted Windows worshipper, you stand to gain from the unending competition between two great companies!

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