MS releases new media players

Microsoft has released Windows Media Audio and Video 8, digital media players the company says provide near-DVD quality video reception in real time on broadband connections.

          Microsoft has released Windows Media Audio and Video 8, digital media players the company says provide near-DVD quality video reception in real time on broadband connections, and near-CD quality sound at higher compression rates than earlier versions. Microsoft also released a media player for Apple Computer Inc.'s Macintosh computers.

          Microsoft's Video 8 player allows near-DVD quality video images at 500Kbit/s (bits per second), with 640-by-480 pixel resolution at 24 frames per second, according to a Microsoft news release. A broadband Internet connection about 10 times as fast as dial-up access, like mid-range DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) is needed for 500Kbit/s connections. Near-VHS quality can be maintained at rates of 250Kbit/s with 320-by-240 pixel resolution at 24 frames per second, the company said.

          The audio player can compress a music file to 48Kbit/s and retain near-CD quality sound, and provide CD-quality sound at 64Kbit/s, according to the Microsoft release. A typical MP3 music file is compressed at 128Kbit/s, making Windows Audio 8 files three times smaller by comparison.

          The players are available for download at http://www.windowsmedia.com/. Both media players incorporate digital rights management features absent in the more commonly used MPEG and MP3 file formats. Digital rights management prevents users from unauthorised copying and distribution of the files, as has happened on the Napster file-sharing service.

          Windows Media Audio and Video 8 will be supported by the Windows XP operating system, the next version of the Windows operating system. The player's codecs are compatible with Microsoft Windows Media Player versions 7 and 6.4, as well as the Windows Media Player 7 for Mac, also released Wednesday.

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