Windows 7 screen shot.
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Specifically, unpatched versions of the Windows 7 beta OS could cause some portions of an MP3 music file to be lost under certain circumstances.
"Every time that metadata is edited in an MP3 file that already contains lots of metadata in the file header, some audio at the beginning of the track may be lost permanently," Microsoft states. "Up to several seconds of data may be lost," the company says.
Microsoft says the problem could arise with song tracks purchased online because they often contain significant amounts of metadata used to recreate album cover art. "Use of tools to add large album art to existing MP3 files may also cause this audio loss," says the software maker.
"Without action on your part, all MP3 files that have large headers in your Windows Media Player and Windows Media Center libraries are likely to lose some audio. Install this update to resolve the issue before you introduce MP3 files to the computer," Microsoft advises, noting that the patch can be downloaded from its Windows support site.
On Saturday, Microsoft dropped limits on the number of copies of the Windows 7 beta it plans to make available to PC enthusiasts after a crush of download requests for the new OS brought its servers to a halt over the weekend.
Last week at CES 2009 in Las Vegas, CEO Steve Ballmer raised expectations around Windows 7.
"We are on track to deliver the best version of Windows ever. We're putting in all the right ingredients—simplicity, reliability and speed, and working hard to get it right, and to get it ready," said Ballmer. Compared to the widely-maligned Vista, Windows 7 "should boot more quickly, have longer battery life, and fewer alerts," Ballmer said.
Ballmer also touted Windows 7's improved support for networking and multimedia content, as well as its touch-screen capabilities.
Microsoft needs Windows 7 to be a hit. Vista, the current version of Windows, has failed to catch on with mainstream computer users and businesses have shunned it outright. Many users have complained about Vista's hardware requirements, intrusive security measures, and lack of compatibility with older applications.
Dissatisfaction with Vista has allowed Apple to gain share against Microsoft in the computer operating system market in recent months. Windows' market share in November fell below 90% for the first time in years while Mac OS is now flirting with the 10% mark, according to market watcher Net Applications.
Microsoft is hoping that Windows 7, which is expected to be released in its final form in late 2009 or early 2010, will stem the tide.