Microsoft's audio format Windows Media Audio gets a double boost this week with the release of Windows Media Player 7 and the availability of tunes from EMI Music in the Windows Media format.

EMI is to begin supporting its online retail channel more than 96 albums and countless singles in the Windows Media Audio format.

Also,, a provider of song samples for Internet music retailers, will release its 2.5 million song previews in the WMA format.

The EMI announcement represents the largest single release of digital music on the Web by a major record label, says Kevin Unangst, group product manager of Microsoft's Digital Media Division.

EMI chose the WMA format because it offers CD quality sound, supports twice the compression of MP3 files, and uses digital rights management, Unangst adds.

Microsoft will post its Windows Media Player 7 for download from its site 19 July. The unit combines a jukebox and streaming media player into one.

Windows Media Player 7 also supports CD burning of both its format and MP3, Unangst says. Other jukeboxes, including RealJukebox 1.1 from RealNetworks, also can burn CDs.

Industry observers believe WMA may be edging toward MP3's ubiquity, with major labels making their tunes available in WMA format.

When Windows Millennium Edition arrives in the Autumn, you'll be able to play WMA files without even downloading a player. Windows Me bundles the Windows Media Player 7.