Microsoft releases Windows Media Player 11

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Microsoft releases Windows Media Player 11

Latest version of player touted as 'preview of Vista'.

Microsoft has released Windows Media Player 11, featuring a new interface, increased support for portable players, and integration with the Urge music service.

Mike Sievert, Microsoft's corporate vice president of Windows, said that the new features are "a preview of what's to come in Windows Vista".

The new navigation options include the ability to organise music by album art using a "stacking" interface, similar to the cover browser feature in iTunes, that groups albums by genre, artist and other information.

Audio fingerprinting software in the program analyses new music and automatically updates it with artist, track and album information from an online database.

This works for CDs being ripped as well as unnamed audio files, according to Microsoft.

Windows Media Player 11 also allows users to manage recorded TV shows and has added more options to the syncing features on digital media devices.

Among the most highly-touted features is the inclusion of Urge. A joint venture between Microsoft and MTV, Urge will provide users with access to more than two million songs and is the "preferred" download service in Media Player 11.

Accessible as a subscription service and on a per-song basis, the music service also offers users 130 streaming radio stations. It is currently available only in the US.

First introduced as beta software in May, Windows Media Player 11 came under fire for its DRM software and handling of licences.

Media Player 11 requires Windows XP Service Pack 2.

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