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Microsoft Announces Beta Release of Windows Media Technologies 4.0

Only Streaming Media Platform to Deliver FM-Stereo-Quality Audio to Modem Users, MP3-Equivalent-Quality Music With Files Half the Size, and a Rights-Management System To Reduce Pass-Around Piracy and Enable Digital Distribution and Commerce

LOS ANGELES - April 13, 1999 - Today at the House of Blues, Microsoft Corp. announced the public availability of the Microsoft® Windows® Media Technologies 4.0 beta, a major upgrade to the industry's fastest-growing streaming media platform. The new version provides content providers, solution providers and software developers with the industry's best audio and video quality, a flexible content-rights-management system and improved electronic-commerce solutions.

The PC has become a ubiquitous entertainment platform for local and streaming audio and video. With this dramatic shift in consumer behavior, technology vendors are challenged to provide consumers with a superior digital media experience while also enabling content providers to develop profitable business models and extend their reach into new markets. Windows Media Technologies 4.0 delivers for both consumers and content providers by providing the following:

"Satisfying the needs of both the consumer and the content community is a huge priority for Microsoft," said Jim Allchin, senior vice president at Microsoft. "Windows Media Technologies 4.0 represents clear and tangible innovation for the consumer experience while providing content providers with a solid foundation for next-generation Internet business models."

Best Audio and Video Quality

Windows Media Technologies 4.0 uses the most advanced compression technologies to achieve remarkable audio and video quality. The new Microsoft Windows Media compression software, code-named "MSAudio," offers exceptionally full, rich sound at every data rate. For the first time, users of 28.8Kbps modems can hear FM-stereo-quality sound broadcasts over the Internet. In fact, in an independent study conducted by National Software Testing Laboratories Inc. (NSTL), four out of five consumers preferred the content compressed with Windows Media to content compressed with RealNetworks RealSystem G2. The study also concluded that three out of four consumers preferred or could not distinguish the sound produced by "MSAudio" from that of files twice as large created using MP3 compression. This remarkable achievement enables consumers to enjoy music quality equivalent or superior to MP3 with files that download in half the time and take half the storage space. More information about the NSTL study is available at http://www.nstl.com/html/windows_media.html.

Viewers will appreciate Windows Media Technologies' updated video compression technology, which provides greatly enhanced video quality over modem links and near-broadcast-quality video over ADSL and cable modem connections.

Rights Management Enables New Business Opportunities

Windows Media Technologies 4.0 includes the Windows Media Rights Manager, which makes digital content distribution more attractive to artists and publishers by enabling them to distribute their content broadly, but requires a license for consumers to play the content. This flexible system puts the business rules for content licensing in the hands of the content publisher, encouraging a greater variety of new digital media content for the Web and opening up new business opportunities. For example, a consumer could be granted a license for a particular song by joining a band fan club via a Web-based form, by making a payment via credit card or by simply viewing a Web page with advertisements.

Other Innovative Features

Windows Media Technologies 4.0 also provides content developers and consumers with many other innovative and compelling features, including these:

For more details and industry reaction to Windows Media Technologies 4.0, tune in at
1 p.m. PDT on April 14 to the Ask the Expert video chatcast (http://msdn.microsoft.com/training/chats/expert.asp), live from the floor of Internet World in Los Angeles. Host David Britton will be joined by some special guests, including Mark Cuban, president of broadcast.com Inc.

Availability

With the Windows Media Technologies 4.0 release, Microsoft completes its transition from the "NetShow™" brand to the "Windows Media" brand. The Windows Media Technologies 4.0 beta, including the Windows Media Player, Windows Media Services, Windows Media Tools and Windows Media Audio SDK, is available now for free download at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/ (connect-time charges may apply). The more than 33 million current users of the Windows Media Player can enjoy the latest high-quality audio content by simply accessing the content - the "MSAudio" compression software is automatically and quickly downloaded into the player with no user intervention. Content packaged with Windows Media Rights Manager requires an upgrade to the beta version of the Windows Media Player. A list of high-quality streaming media content and songs available for download can be found at http://webevents.msn.com/showcase/.

 

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