First Take: Windows Media Player 10 Beta

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Windows Media Player 10 Beta
Microsoft's Technical Beta release of Windows Media Player 10 features a redesigned interface that provides easy access to online media stores. It also syncs better with portable devices.

Microsoft is once again reviving its Windows Media Player (WMP). Version 10 offers a more streamlined design, improved syncing with portable devices and something called the Digital Media Mall. At this point, the Mall lets you shop at only two online media stores. That said, this is only the Technical Beta, and smart money says Microsoft will probably add more stores with the final release.

Windows Media Player 10 Technical Beta has a more user-friendly interface, but the real standout improvements are the program's enhanced portable-device syncing and the Digital Media Mall. The Mall is fairly self-explanatory; as for the syncing improvements, WMP now offers driverless support for many more portable devices and the option to customise synchronisation settings to sync automatically upon connection or transfer all newly acquired tunes automatically.

Currently, the Digital Media Mall contains only Napster and CinemaNow, although we expect more stores to be added before the final version is released. The most popular MP3 player, Apple's iPod is still noticeably absent from the compatible devices list - the iPod only works with iTunes.

Extended device coverage and timesaving sync features are welcome additions. If Microsoft also convinces a good selection of online media stores and services to sign on for its Digital Media Mall, Windows Media Player 10 could become a must-have for music fans on the Windows platform when it ships later this year.

Windows Media Player 10 Beta
Company: Microsoft
Price: Free

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