Windows XP Media Player


Windows XP Media Player


Article by Marc Liron - Microsoft MVP (2004-2010)


Windows XP Media Player - The Best There Is?

Windows XP Media Player is the media player that Microsoft ships with its flagship desktop operating system - Windows XP.

However in January 2003 Microsoft released an update to this media player called Windows Media Player 9, but more on that later in this article...


NB - Since this article was released Microsoft have now come out with Windows Media Player 10 and 11.


A Little Windows Media Player History...

The first computers capable of playing decent sounds were Apple Macintosh's, using the now infamous Quick Time technology, and most Commodore machines were great little boxes for playing sound at the time. Well that was the late 1980's and Microsoft had yet to make a dominant impact on the PC world!

In 1991 Microsoft introduced Windows 3.0 to the world and part of the add-on multimedia extensions, was a very basic media player. It really bears no resemblance to the modern Windows XP Media Player as it only had four buttons which were Eject, Pause, Start and Stop! But at least it was a start...

In 1995 - Windows 95 shipped with a more useful media player that could actually play AVI and MPEG files but it did not like them too large! I will always remember watching my first video on a PC. It was a brand new Pentium 75 loaded with Windows 95 - I was a proud man owning such a powerful machine at the time! Well Mr Gates had release his Book "The Road Ahead" as a CD. On it there were various "Movies" that showed his vision for the future of PC's, (or how Microsoft wanted it to be anyhow!) But the very first time I saw the small movies playing on my screen I was hooked on using my PC for multimedia. Sure there was some great pioneering work on streaming media via the Internet, but back in 1995 trying to watch these was an agonising experience via a modem.

With Windows 98 Microsoft had a great opportunity to include an updated version of the media player but chose to wait until after its launch to release a better player. Then when Microsoft released its more stable Windows 98 Second Edition this included the now infamous Windows Media Player 6.1 This better media player was now officially being called a Windows Media Player and it supported play back of the increasingly popular MP3 file format. The Windows Media Player 6 is still bundled with the Windows operating systems for backward compatibility reasons, one example is that WMP7 and WMP8 can not be embedded in some circumstances...

Windows ME saw the release of a new Windows Media Player called 7.1 This player was made available as a download for all the other operating systems at the time of ME's launch. The Windows Media Player 7.1 was the first player to resemble the Windows XP Media Player. It was a great leap forward but could be very buggy at times! However the 7.1 player was now part of a family of media products Microsoft had created called Windows Media 7 Series. With this new technology Microsoft wanted to place it's self above its main rivals, Quick Time & Real Player, as the best on the audio and visual technology in the PC arena. Another significant point about the 7 series player was that it now had its own codec's to create content. These were Windows Media Audio and Video 7. Microsoft was now trying to distance itself from the AVI and MP3 formats...

Windows XP Media Player Is Born

In Late 2001 Microsoft launched Windows XP. Naturally this seemed a good time to release a new Windows Media Player and we were not to be disappointed! Microsoft gave us the Windows XP Media Player, or to give it Microsoft's preferred title: Media Player XP (MPXP). However this has become known as Windows Media Player 8!

Windows XP Media Player was a great improvement over the 7.1 player. It was more stable product and it integrated at the XP operating systems core level to give the XP user a far better experience. Microsoft also updated its own audio and video codec's to version 8. This prompted a lot of content to be created in these new codec's as they were great for streaming audio and video over the Internet. There was only one problem with this player. You had to own Windows XP to use it! Windows XP Media Player was not made available to any other operating system, just the 8 series codec's so you could watch content encoded in these formats on earlier media players.

Windows XP Media Player Is Gone?

In January 2003, Microsoft released a new media series called Series 9. This is yet again a great improvement on the series 8 codec's for sound and video streamed over the Internet, as well as giving us a new Windows Media Player version 9. The new Windows Media Player 9 is available for most operating systems in use today and contains some features that only work with Windows XP machines. However if you are using Windows XP as your operating system there is now need to rush out and upgrade if you are happy with the current Windows XP Media Player installed on your machine. You may however want to install the optional series 9 codec's to take advantage of any content that is using this new standard from Microsoft.

Windows XP Media Player was great BUT Windows Media Player 9 is stunning on the XP desktop. In fact it has broken ALL records for a "juke box" type player with over 14 million download in the first month of its release!

This is what Microsoft have to say: "Windows Media 9 Series dramatically improves the playback experience, delivering a vast improvement in streaming that also is automatically optimized for users’ needs. A new version of the Windows Media Player provides a wealth of features and is faster and easier to use than before to put users in control of their media."




Kind Regards

Marc Liron - Microsoft MVP (2004-2010)

Marc Liron

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