Microsoft Corp. released Wednesday a preliminary version of its newest software package for playing video and audio on personal computers that will also allow online music stores to sell songs over the Web.
The new version, called Windows Media Player 10, is being released as a technical beta program aimed at enthusiasts and early adopters for testing and feedback.
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Microsoft’s new media player, which competes against RealNetworks Inc.’s RealPlayer and Apple Computer Inc.’s QuickTime player, is also designed to work with a new line of portable media devices using Microsoft’s Portable Media Center software.
The most notable new feature, however, is the new player’s ability to offer music and video from different vendors directly through the player, Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s hit music store iTunes.
“We are testing a new concept currently called the ’Digital Media Mall’ that offers a selection of online music stores and video services that work seamlessly in the player,” Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft said in a statement.
Microsoft said the new player will also work with subscription style music services, where users can stream and listen to songs for a subscription fee rather than paying for each download.
Microsoft also said that the new media player will have a ”simple, clean” interface and that the full version will be released later this year.