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First Look: 11 Things I Love (and Hate) About URGE | Windows Media Player 11

Love and hate are two words that evoke passion and an immediate polarization to one side or the other. In reviewing this latest version of Windows Media Player, I found myself swinging back and forth rather rapidly. But we all know that love and hate can and do coexist in all aspects of our lives. Those of you who own a computer can relate. With just a touch of irony, I used my Mac mini Intel Core Duo with a fresh copy of Windows XP Pro to test-drive Windows Media Player 11 Beta release, including the built-in MTV URGE music store. Here, from an end-user perspective, are 11 things that I loved or hated.

11. I Love the Design
Finally, the designers at Microsoft are rocking the traditional Windows boat. With iPod-esque lines and a sleek black finish, this player joins the ranks of the fashion elite. The URGE network adds to the flavor, with nicely mirrored photos (hat tip to Apple?) and a great focus on artwork, photos, and visually appealing graphics. I think the URGE logo and even the name fit well with the look and feel of this latest design.

Below: Windows Media Player 11’s sleek new design

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10. I Hate the Text Navigation
There are way too many navigation areas and an endless string of text seems to go on for miles down the left hand side. The fact that there are no dividing lines between the navigation panes makes it tough to see how things are separated. On the other hand, one of the nice features about the URGE navigation is that everything is a link. Album, artist, year, genre, etc. are all linked and lead to more music and information. Too much text, but you can access a ton of features with one click.

9. I Love the Celebrity Playlists
Download playlists from your favorite celebrity, musician, or show and find out what the stars are listening to while they walk their dogs. Jenna Elfman is a groovy fan of Sinéad O’Connor and Bob Dylan! Mike Meyers has a playlist built for walking around Manhattan! Lara Croft of Tomb Raider fame even has a playlist that I just downloaded. Nice to see she appreciates Rimsky-Korsakov and the Gorillaz. This is a very cool feature!

8. I Hate Not Owning my Music
Just like iTunes and other music stores, you can buy 99-cent songs. Unlike iTunes (but like Napster), URGE’s monthly fees allow only temporary access to the music. You can rent it if you choose to pay $9.99 a month and listen to it on your computer. You have to pay $14.99 to get it on your Windows Media Player-compatible portable music device and even then, as soon as you stop paying, the music will disappear the next time you connect it to your computer. This is the biggest hurdle to widespread adoption. It would be great to see a model that would let you keep your music after so many months of payment or keep a number of songs based on dollars spent.

7. I Love Big Buttons and I Cannot Lie
Beefy buttons on the navigation panel are a nice feature that allow quick access and also hide a range of options all tucked away like Russian wooden dolls. The transport at the bottom has a large blue play/pause button and a nice, solid 3D look. Apart from the text navigation on the side, which can be shrunk, the overall navigation is a nice step up from previous versions.

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