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Monday, May 15, 2006

Windows Media Player 11

Apple has been amazingly successful at winning over PC users and infiltrating their machines via iTunes, but with Windows Media Player 11 (WMP 11), Microsoft says "No more."

The new release, launched today as a beta download, beats Apple iTunes in many aspects. It acts as a repository and player for all your music, video, and images, unlike Apple's popular player. And while WMP 11 doesn't integrate with the iTunes Music Store, it also doesn't lock you in to one purchasing source. In fact, it integrates numerous stores including Napster, audible.com, Movielink, and MTV's new Urge service.

This release represents a major departure from the feel and navigation styles of WMP 10 and iTunes. With many other media players, you scroll through a list of files; WMP 11 lets you browse your library by cover. Some other players, like Yahoo! Music include the capability, but none do it as well. Bringing art to navigation makes the process much more appealing visually—your music collection no longer looks like a spreadsheet.

You'll also find the Word Wheel search technology Microsoft has implemented with Vista. Its speed is stunning—start to enter the first few letters of a track, album, or artist into the search bar, and the appropriate music will be waiting for you before you stop typing. Although iTunes has the same basic feature, seeing album art pop up is much more compelling than getting a list of tracks.

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