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Survey Says Windows Media Player More Appealing to New Users

Microsoft (www.microsoft.com) took another swing at RealNetworks ( www.realnetworks.com) in the seemingly never-ending battle of the codecs. The attack comes on two fronts, with the release of a new study, and a marketing push of a "bonus pack" which offers enticing goodies for the Windows Media Player 7.

The study, conducted by Millward Brown and commissioned by Microsoft, found that 76 percent of the consumers surveyed, preferred Windows Media Player 7 to RealPlayer 8 and RealJukebox 8. Users primarily cited Windows Media Player 7's greater ease of use and showed that participants did not feel sound quality was a differentiating factor. According to Millward Brown, the participants were relatively new to digital media, did not use any player regularly, but were interested in digital media activities. The study was based on one-on-one interviews conducted with 100 people from Los Angeles, Baltimore and Chicago.

The study showed Window Media Player 7 was preferred over RealPlayer 8 in all major player tasks, except listening to the radio. While Windows Media Player combines the functionality of a player and jukebox into one application, Real keeps those functions separate. Although the results do not differentiate between the RealPlayer and RealJukebox, a spokesperson for Millward Brown said that both the RealPlayer and RealJukebox were used in the study.

Lisa Amore, spokesperson for RealNetworks said, "We should recognize that consumers vote with usage." Amore cited a Media Metrix Soft Usage report that indicated that Real has a significant lead in home usage: 30.5 percent for RealPlayer and 5.5 percent for RealJukebox, while Windows Media was under 1 percent.

In addition to the release of the survey, Microsoft announced a free "bonus pack" for Microsoft Windows Media Player 7 that includes an MP3 converter, new skins and visualizations. In an attempt to spread usage of its own audio format, Microsoft released a tool to convert MP3 files into Windows Media Audio format (WMA). Microsoft claims that consumers can double their storage capacity by converting to WMA from MP3.

A utility to convert Winamp skins into Windows Media skins, was also released. This allows Windows Media users access to the thousands of skins developed by the Winamp community. The converter was developed in-house at Microsoft without the consultation of Winamp.

Winamp, which is owned by America Online, was unable to comment at press time.

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