SEATTLE (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp. said Monday it is enlisting three companies to sell plug-ins to enable its upcoming media player software to record music in the MP3 format and play DVD movies.
Microsoft's Windows Media Player, a new version of which will debut in the software giant's new Windows XP operating system in late October, has not supported high-quality music recording in MP3, the most popular format for storing songs and CDs as digital files on a computer.
Critics have said lack of MP3 support was evidence that Microsoft was trying to drive users to its own format, called Windows Media Audio, that it is trying to establish as an industry standard.
While the Windows Media Player won't have built-in MP3 recording ability, three companies -- Taiwan's CyberLink Corp. , InterVideo and Ravisent Technologies Inc. -- will sell add-on software to do so, Microsoft said.
Rival software, such as that from RealNetworks Inc. and privately held MusicMatch Inc., support high-quality MP3 recording without additional plug-ins.
Another add-on will let people play DVDs from within the media player, Microsoft said.
Pricing of the add-ons has not been announced. Users would be directed to the software by links to the Internet within the media player, Microsoft said.
NO MP3 WORSHIPERS
The upcoming media player will also make it easier to manage a music library, transfer songs to a portable device, or record them on a CD, Microsoft said.
Microsoft also said while it was not out to undermine MP3, it did not think most customers cared which format they used as long as they could easily manage and access their music.
"Feedback from usability tests, it's been interesting, we haven't found that people have this religious attachment to MP3," Jonathan Usher, group product manager for Microsoft's digital media division, said in an interview.
"What people seem to want is just a great digital music experience," Usher said.
Michael Aldridge, lead product manager for the division, also noted that enabling high-quality MP3 recording requires a license from the format's creators, Germany's Fraunhofer Institute.
Aldridge did not elaborate, but analysts have speculated that Microsoft has not embraced MP3 recording to avoid paying licensing fees.