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Microsoft Releases Windows Media Player 10 Technical Beta

Earlier this month, Microsoft made available the technical beta release of Windows Media Player 10 to early adopters and enthusiasts for testing. The new version features a host of features that Microsoft says will provide the framework for seamless digital content distribution and playback. These improvements and enhancements are primarily grouped under four headings: a simplified interface, enhanced device support, an all-in-one jukebox, and Microsoft’s concept of a "Digital Media Mall."

The redesign of Windows Media Player began with simplifying the interface. "The tasks that we had in the previous versions were a little confusing," says Erin Cullen, lead product manager of Microsoft’s Windows digital media division. "We’ve worked on increasing the level of accessibility." Media Player 9 had the concept of a Media Library, but it was somewhat buried. Now, the Library tab rests on a bar running along the top of the player, which includes other functions such as Rip and Burn. "All of their content can be managed and played back from one place," says Cullen. Media Player 10 also simplifies matters by not forcing users to begin anew whenever they open the program; it starts in the same part of the program that was last used in the previous session, typically the Media Library. "It’s a much simpler, easier way to access your content," says Cullen.

Along with the Media Library, there’s a tab called "Online Stores," which leads users to what Microsoft has called a Digital Media Mall. In it, online media purveyors like Napster will have digital storefronts through which consumers can purchase music, movies, and more. While users won’t be able to add sites that haven’t partnered with Microsoft, they will still have dozens to choose from and the ability to decide which of these storefronts they want in their mall. "We’re still working this out," says Cullen. "We’re continuing to add in more services so that users will have more choices; users will have complete control over those choices." The Media Library keeps track of which storefronts each file was purchased from. Content providers will benefit from the way in which they can control their storefront presence, which directly integrates with their sites' server.

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