Top 10 Windows Vista Hits And Misses

In this countdown of where Microsoft has scored and stumbled with Vista, our opinionated writer says yes to the Aero interface and Sidebar Gadgets, no to beefed-up graphics hardware requirements and a tough installation process.

Alexander Wolfe, Contributor

July 15, 2006

2 Min Read

6) Hit: Windows Media Player 11
The media success of Vista won't stem entirely from the operating system -- it'll also be a function of surrounding apps and services that have sprung up amid attempts to fend off the iTunes juggernaut.

Exhibit A in this regard is Windows Media Player 11, another Microsoft development for which clunky design is beside the point. Windows Media Player 11 isn't solely tied to Vista -- there's a version for Windows XP. However, it's included in Vista, is heavily touted in Microsoft's write-ups for the OS, and is a key component of Vista's Media Center strategy.

If Windows Media Player 11 were Microsoft's virgin foray into a music and video app, it would be perfectly adequate. However, it's the successor to WMP 10, a highly evolved player that had shed the limitations of earlier versions and is actually quite nice to use. In the interest of integration and ease-of-use -- a player for Grandma, again -- version 11 unfortunately takes a step backward.

Both my versions of WMP 11 (on Vista and on XP) appear slightly slower than WMP 10. As for externals, the new player has an uglier skin than its predecessor. In comparison to the elegant iTunes -- its real competitor, since WMP 11 is as much music store as media player -- the new release looks like it was chosen by a retro-minded aficionado of Soviet-bloc design.

So why do I like WMP 11? Because it's tightly integrated with URGE, a new online music store Microsoft has launched in partnership with MTV. URGE is the first Windows-based alternative to iTunes that has a real chance of success. Interestingly, URGE is a subscription service where you pay about $15 a month for all you can listen to (though not own). That model has some unexploited upside, compared to Apple's 99-cents-per-song fixed pricing.

Right now, it's expected that customers will download songs onto their PCs and burn them to CDs or load them onto MP3 players from Samsung, Creative, and others. Soon, Microsoft might add its own player into the mix.

About the Author(s)

Alexander Wolfe

Contributor

Alexander Wolfe is a former editor for InformationWeek.

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