Late today, Microsoft will unveil the beta 1 release of Windows Media Player (WMP) 9, a significant upgrade to Media Player for Windows XP (MPXP) and WMP 7, along with a host of other Windows Media 9 Series products that run the gamut from server-side content delivery to local-media encoding. Windows Media 9 Series is the company's most comprehensive multimedia product launch ever.
"Windows Media 9 Series is, by far, the most important platform we've ever worked on," said Dave Fester, general manager of the Windows Digital Media Division, noting that previous products, such as Windows Media 7 and Windows Media 8, didn't provide upgrades for all the Windows Media products that the company produces. "Now we're bringing it all together."
Windows Media 9 Series consists of new versions of the all-in-one WMP, impressive new Windows Media Audio (WMA) and Windows Media Video (WMV) codecs, Windows Media Encoder for encoding content in the new formats, Windows Media Software Development Kit (SDK) for developers, and Windows Media Services, which will ship as part of Windows .NET Server 2003 (Win.NET Server 2003) later this year. Many of this revision's improvements are based on the player, which will be almost infinitely configurable; on making streaming media over the Web more TV-like; and on the new audio and video codecs, which will bring DVD- and movie-theatre-like experiences to the PC for the first time.
Microsoft will launch the Windows Media 9 Series at a lavish event in Los Angeles, which will trigger the public availability of WMP 9 beta 1. I'll post a full review of the entire Windows Media 9 Series suite on the SuperSite for Windows starting tomorrow.