Active Streaming and RealMedia A/V tool for Windows platforms
Media Player is the latest universal media player released by Microsoft and is designed to receive and playback streaming audio and video media over the Internet or your private intranet. The player serves as the successor to the standard media player in Windows 3.x/95/NT and will be a critical component of the upcoming releases of Windows 98, NT 5.0, and Internet Explorer 5.0. It also serves as the successor to the Microsoft NetShow player -- Media Player retains all of NetShow 2.x's features and functionality and at the same time delivers a ton of its own. Media Player is also the only client available that will play encoded and/or served NetShow 3.0 media files.
The player is based on Microsoft DirectX and specifically utilizes DirectShow. DirectShow is the media-streaming architecture for Windows that enables the delivery of the highest possible performance for multimedia streamed content. DirectShow support and additional improvements allow Media Player to put NetShow 2.0, the Windows Media Player, and most of the competition to shame in terms of performance and audio/video quality. But performance and quality are only two of the areas that Media Player excels in; perhaps even more critical is the player's outstanding functionality and versatility. Media Player is the latest universal media player released by Microsoft and is designed to receive and playback streaming audio and video media over the Internet or your private intranet.
In addition to support for NetShow 3.0 content, Media Player also offers support for the following formats - streaming media for NetShow 2.x (Advanced Streaming Format (ASF) and ASX files) and RealMedia 4.0 (RA, RAM, RM, and RMM files); video content for Audio Visual Interleave (AVI), QuickTime (MOV and QT), and MPEG (MPG, MPEG, MP2, MPA, and MPE); music clips in the Musical Instrument Digital Interface format (MIDI, MID, and RMI); and audio sound bytes for Macintosh AIFF Resource (AIF, AIFC, and AIFF), Sun Microsystems and NeXT Java (AU and SND), and Audio for Windows (WAV) files. A companion development tool for the Media Player, Windows Media On-Demand Producer, is also available to help you encode audio and video files to the streaming ASF format.
One of the Media Player's coolest features is its codec auto-download capabilities. The player automatically downloads new codecs from Microsoft and third parties as they become available, ensuring that you will always have the latest and greatest codecs at hand for your viewing pleasure. Additional features include quick resize capabilities for changing the size of video images at will (can range from 1/16th of the screen to full screen playback), a ten second playlist preview option, a more intuitive and attractive interface, and new buttons for rewinding and fast forwarding clips. Like NetShow 2.x, the Media Player can also function as either a standalone player or a plug-in for Internet Explorer (obviously) and Netscape Communicator.
NetShow 2.x got Microsoft into the streaming multimedia game, but Media Player makes Microsoft a real competitor for the first time. Media Player has improved on all of NetShow's 2.x features while at the same time eliminating its deficiencies (most notably the requirement for two different players -- one to play files in the Microsoft ASF format and another to play those in the Real Audio/Real Video format). RealMedia retains at least one trump card in its hand with the "RealFlash" animation content support offered by v5.0 of RealPlayer. Still, in considering all of the major factors that come in to play in the war of multimedia streaming clients -- audio and video quality, performance, versatility, ease of use, and functionality -- perhaps it is time to crown a new king.
Pros: Outstanding real-time audio/video, excellent support for NetShow 3 and other A/V formats
Cons: Lacks the "RealFlash" animation content support offered by RealPlayer 5.0/G2
New in 6.2 Beta: Support for Windows Media Technologies 4.0, which delivers FM-stereo-quality streaming audio for all modem users via Microsoft's Windows Media compression software "MSAudio", high-quality download-and-play music with files half the size of equivalent-quality MP3 files, and a copyright system for enabling content providers to charge for electronic distribution of music & videos; Windows Media Audio SDK; updated intelligent streaming; Notes
Upgrade Meter: 3
Version Reviewed: 6.2 Beta
Date of Review: 4/14/99
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Operating Systems / Latest Versions:
Media On-Demand Producer: Windows NT - Intel, Alpha. Windows 95/98 (all 2.0 Beta)