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Microsoft Unveils Windows Media Player for XP

As part of its $200 million marketing plan, Microsoft unveiled its newest operating system, Windows XP, at a launch party in New York City. Among the enhancements are a slew of digital media features, including the newest version of its media player called Windows Media Player for XP (MPXP).

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates presided over the festivities, delivering a keynote that included a special appearance by "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" host, Regis Philbin. As part of the launch festivities, Microsoft held events around the country, including a live concert by Sting in New York. The entire event and even the concert was webcast live over the Internet and will be available for on-demand viewing as well.

"The release of Windows XP represents the most advanced digital media technology ever in Windows and goes beyond creating a breakthrough experience for consumers and organizations," said Dave Fester, general manager of the Windows Digital Media Division at Microsoft. "Whether you market your own technical solutions and services or have a great new device for consumers, Windows XP offers a rich platform of opportunity for a broad spectrum of businesses and industries."

Notable in this player is a brand new interface and tight integration with the operation system. Most importantly, Microsoft said that the new player won't be an upgrade from Windows Media Player 7.1. That means whoever wants the new player needs to upgrade to the new operating system. Users can get a sneak peek at some advanced media features by downloading Internet Explorer 6, which has a built in media player window in the browser, that allows for surfing while streaming. Also notable is that MPXP does not support native MP3 encoding — users that rip CDs can only encode to Windows Media Audio format. Those looking to encode with MP3 must pay for a plug-in created by a third party company into MPXP.

Other features of Windows XP include a new "My Music" folder which is the default music folder added to the Start menu, much like the "My Documents" folder. When a CD is inserted into the computer, Windows Media Player automatically grabs album art and saves it locally within the "My Music" folder. MPXP also has a new full-screen option, with player controls that fade away when no keys or buttons are pressed.

Thursday Microsoft also announced the availability of a Plus! Pack for Windows XP, which has voice-recognition for Windows Media Player. Simply speaking into a microphone can control the player, including play, stop, skip. Users can even say the names of bands or song titles to begin playing them instantly. Plus! also comes with a label maker, a DJ playlist assistant, custom visualizations, and a MP3 converter for transcoding files from MP3 to Windows Media audio format. Along with digital media, Windows XP also comes with home networking, instant messaging, voice and wireless connectivity options.

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