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WMP 11.0 beta - slim pickings so far

US music fans get all the fun

Microsoft is overhauling Windows Media Player, giving its music player its biggest revamp in years. The company brought out a beta version of WMP 11.0 a few weeks ago, featuring a cleaner, Vista-like interface.

However, while US music fans can start to get excited about its shiny new look and its integration with MTV’s Urge digital music store, the rest of us can only sit and wait. MTV Urge digital downloads have yet to be launched on the TV channel’s UK site and Microsoft seems to have nothing to say about WMP 11.0 beyond its current US trials.

Microsoft’s WMP 11.0 beta has gone down very well with beta testers at PC Advisor’s sister publications in the US, but download the version meant for anywhere outside the States and there’s precious little to report.

Having heard talk of its streamlined look, improvements to how it handles extensive music libraries and generally better performance - particularly its ability to turn up requested tracks in a trice - we were keen to give it a try.

It’s a 24MB download but takes aeons to arrive and, when you finally get to unpack it, you don’t get anything like the features you’ve probably read about online. We like its shiny black new look and the album art library sorted by alphabetical character into which you can paste any missing images you choose. But upgrading from WMP 10.0 which was already tightly and rather niftily integrated with Napster, meant we lost this facility as well as all our internet radio stations and so forth.

Granted, there’s a note on the download page that says WMP 11.0 beta may not work with each and every download service, but since Napster was one of the listed ones, we were at least hopeful. Microsoft’s UK spokespeople have no news on when or even whether non-US residents will be able to take a proper look at its latest music player, its likely partnerships, integration with the soon-to-be-launched Windows Live portal or anything else.

Microsoft spokespeople stuck with stating that tie-ins with MTV Urge and any other content partners were being looked into and that they’ll let us know as soon as Microsoft has decided.

Nor could we ascertain quite how long the evaluation period was likely to last, leaving us and every other UK music download fan in the lurch. Oh, and Napster and iTunes quids in while the likes of Microsoft and Real get round to sorting a decent subscription and download store.

WMP 11.0 beta can be downloaded here if you fancy having a look yourself - but don’t dump your old version of Media Player just yet.


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