Chapter TWO (continued) MEDIA PLAYER TECHNOLOGIES — Windows Media Player

MEDIA PLAYER TECHNOLOGIES
Windows Media Player
My original overview of the Windows Media Player (WMP) in 2004 focused on the WM9 series media player which offered  a great many features for the playback of rich media..  Already pre-loaded was a large selection of Web Radio stations, most not affiliated with Microsoft but offered as part of the Radio Tuner Interface.
The current versions of  WMP can be downloaded from the following link:
http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/help/windows-media-player/using
Once there, depending on the version of Windows you are running,  (in my case it would be Windows XP), you can download the current versions 11 or 12.
The Internet Radio interface is now integrated as part of what Microsoft offers as the Windows Media Guide (WMG), which includes tabs for Music, Movies, TV, Games, and Internet Radio.  The main interface can be accessed through this link:
http://www.windowsmedia.com/MediaGuide/US/Home
There are currently 36 different genres of music listed as the top selections , and then over 200 more stations are offered through the interface of the WMG.  Many of these stations are strictly Web Radio stations, while others show the location of the over the air station that originates the Webcast.  Stations that come pre-loaded into the WMG have a great advantage and opportunity for listeners to try them out.
The player offers many features for the control and manipulation of media downloaded into the local PC, such as music mixing with cross fading, auto volume control, and variable speed playback.   The WMG is easily accessible directly from the player, simply clicking on the Media Guide tab on the top of the player will take you directly to it..
The ability to present a great deal of additional information to the user is also built in to the player, additional info to enhance the listening experience such as album art, music videos, downloads, biographies, discographies, reviews, news, related artists, and much more can be streamed along with the audio content.
With the Windows Media Series Microsoft is aggressively trying to expand licensing agreements to a wide range of portable devices, and claims to offer better licensing terms than formats such as MPEG4.  Developers, manufacturers, and others interested in developing and deploying Windows Media across their platforms can obtain licensing rights and Software Developers Kit to extend the source code of the Windows Media platform.  This may be of interest to some webcasters that would like to use Software Development as a way to customize their station and develop a unique identity necessary to stand out in a rapidly developing area.
For more information on the Windows Media Software Development kit visit this link:
http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/bb190307.aspx
The standard format for the Windows Media platform is Windows Media Audio and Video 9 Series that takes advantage of Variable Bit Rate (VBR) audio and new compression techniques that deliver MP3 quality audio at half the size so streaming is utilizing less bandwidth.  Users running Windows XP can take advantage of the player’s support of an advanced audio format through the use Windows Media Audio 9 Pro 5.1 playback.  This will require the listener PC to have a 5.1 compatible sound card and 5-piece PC speaker system.  For details on the set up of a 5.1 audio system with Windows XP, refer to:
http://www.microsoft.com/windowsXP/windowsmediaplayer/51audio.asp
Technology advances beyond 5.1 audio include a move to what is being referred to as HD audio.  For a WMP  compatible HD audio upgrade, please refer to :
http://www.srslabs.com/audioessentials/compatibility.html
As you will see this upgrade lists compatibility with all 4 of the media players that I am discussing here.  I also will be running a trial of WMP, and then comparing it to WINamp, Realplayer, and QuickTime.  At that time, I will also explore the SRS Labs HD audio upgrade and incorporate that into a report and comparison of the trials.
Since the WMP is shipped with each Windows operating system loaded onto a PC, it is available to a large percentage of the PC universe.  The WMP can also be downloaded free of charge to older PCs.  Therefore, support for this player by the webcaster should be considered, through either the Windows Media Server or the RealNetworks Helix server.
For more details on the Windows Media platform, refer to:
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/default.aspx

mike

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