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Windows Media Technologies 4 Delivers Cutting-Edge CD-Quality Audio On the Internet

Industries Embrace Unmatched Audio Quality, Zero-Cost Streaming and Digital Rights Management That Will Deliver Streaming Media to the Masses

REDMOND, Wash., Aug. 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Microsoft Corp. today announced the release of Microsoft® Windows Media(TM) Technologies 4, the most innovative digital media platform available today. The new release includes breakthrough audio technology, developed with Microsoft Research, that introduces a new standard for CD-quality audio on the Internet. Leaders in the music and radio industries, top software developers, and leading content and solution providers have embraced the unmatched audio and video quality, proven digital rights management, and broad range of tools in Windows Media Technologies 4. Windows Media includes Windows Media Player, Windows Media Services, Windows Media Tools and Windows Media Audio SDK.

"Today's release of Windows Media Technologies 4 sets a new standard for audio and video quality on the Internet," said Bill Gates, chairman and CEO, Microsoft Corp. "The delivery of Internet CD-quality audio with unprecedented compression accelerates the availability of a whole new class of applications and will usher in the next generation of digital media over the Internet."

With the release of Windows Media Technologies 4, over 40 million users of Windows Media Player -- increasing at a rate of more than one new user every second -- can experience a new standard in audio quality on the Web. Unlike other audio technologies, Windows Media achieves CD-quality audio at half the size of competing formats and is preferred by users, according to an independent study conducted by National Software Testing Labs (http://www.nstl.com/html/windows_media.html). In addition to superior audio quality, Windows Media Technologies 4 offers the following advantages:

    * Zero-cost streaming. By offering audio and video services with no
      per-stream charge, Windows Media Technologies 4 effectively breaks down
      cost barriers for customers and content providers.
    * Near TV-quality video. The remarkable advancements in video improve the
      image quality over low-speed connections and deliver
      near-broadcast-quality video over high-speed connections.
    * Proven digital rights management solution. Windows Media Technologies 4
      gives content publishers the ability to control and manage the
      distribution and use of digital audio and video content, extending
      existing distribution models and enabling new e-commerce opportunities.

New CD-Quality Internet Audio Broadly Available

Microsoft's dramatic improvement in CD-quality audio is a driving factor behind the broad adoption of music companies using Windows Media, including Sony Music Entertainment Inc., jukebox software makers including Sonic Foundry Inc., MusicMatch Inc. and popular digital audio players like Nullsoft Inc.'s WinAmp and MediaScience Inc.'s Sonique (recently acquired by America Online Inc. and Lycos Inc., respectively). On Monday, Columbia Records debuted Mariah Carey's new single "HeartBreaker" exclusively in Windows Media on MSN(TM) WindowsMedia.com.

"We see the Internet as a great way for our artists to connect with their fans," said John Ingrassia, executive vice president, Columbia Records Group. "Microsoft's streaming audio preview for Mariah Carey's 'Heartbreaker' single really helped build excitement about the song before its release. We look forward to working with Microsoft again in the near future."

Leading personal jukebox software makers, including Sonic Foundry and MusicMatch, are choosing Windows Media. Sonic Foundry Siren and MusicMatch JukeBox 4.1, both available today, have taken advantage of Windows Media Audio SDK to add native Windows Media Audio (WMA) support to their products, which enables them to offer fast encoding and unmatched CD-audio quality in the smallest file size.

"Sonic Foundry's Siren, our new music jukebox, uses the Microsoft Windows Media Audio format because it provides superior audio quality and faster compression than alternative technologies," said Curtis Palmer, chief technology officer, Sonic Foundry. "By using Windows Media, Sonic Foundry's Siren is the most advanced and reliable music jukebox available."

"MusicMatch pioneered the first complete personal jukebox solution, and our users have come to expect the best from our products," said Dennis Mudd, CEO of MusicMatch. "Windows Media Audio offers superior audio technology for our users and, unlike its competitors, Microsoft is committed to maintaining WMA as an open standard. It was an easy choice for us to drop support for RealAudio in favor of Windows Media in our newest release, MusicMatch Jukebox 4.1."

In addition, the most popular digital audio players, including WinAmp and Sonique, have added support for Windows Media Audio to give their users access to the wide selection of Windows Media content. Six personal jukeboxes and three audio players that use Windows Media Technology are available for download at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/players/.

Users can compare the high-quality audio for themselves by taking part in the "Hearing Is Believing" challenge at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/daretocompare/. Audio and video content from over 1,000 providers showcasing Windows Media Technologies is available on MSN WindowsMedia.com, the fastest growing audio and video guide on the Web, at http://windowsmedia.msn.com/.

Advancements in Video Quality Over Low- and High-Speed Connections

In addition to the breakthrough CD-quality audio, Windows Media Technologies also offers remarkable advancements in video quality, improving image quality in low-speed connections and delivering near-broadcast-quality video over high-speed connections. Leading entertainment companies such as Capitol Records are choosing the superior viewing experience offered by Windows Media for major projects, such as the Internet premiere of the Garth Brooks-Chris Gaines music video "Lost in You" at http://hollywoodandvine.com/chrisgaines/.

Proven Digital Rights Management Solution

Windows Media Technologies 4 enables digital content distribution by offering a proven digital rights management solution, which gives artists, record labels and studios the ability to control and manage the distribution and use of digital audio and video content, extending existing distribution models and enabling new e-commerce opportunities. Windows Media has been selected for promotions and downloadable single sales by major record labels including EMI Music's Capitol label, Sony Music's Columbia label, and Warner Music Group's Atlantic label.

"The CD-quality audio and rights management capabilities of Windows Media Technologies 4 are creating new opportunities for expanding sales of music on the Internet," said Paul Vidich, executive vice president at Warner Music Group. "Our recent secure download promotion with Microsoft and CDNow substantially contributed to increased sales of Sugar Ray's new album at CDNow each week of the two-week promotion -- it was a great success. The rights management capabilities of Windows Media were flexible enough to allow us to set up a clearing operation with server side technologies that is customized entirely to Warner Music's needs."

Windows Media Technologies rights management system also has broad industry support from full-service digital rights management solutions companies such as Reciprocal Inc.

"We fully expect Windows Media rights management and CD-quality audio, combined with Reciprocal's transaction clearing services, to dramatically increase the volume of singles and albums released on the Internet, starting immediately," said Paul Bandrowski, CEO of Reciprocal.

Tools for Cost-Effective, Innovative Solutions

Today's release of Windows Media Technologies 4 also provides developers and content providers with the building blocks to create cost-effective, customized solutions to extend their individual businesses. By offering audio and video services with zero-cost streaming, Windows Media Technologies 4 effectively breaks down cost barriers for customers and content providers. The Windows Media Technologies advanced audio and video capabilities are shipping today as an integrated component of millions of copies of the Windows® operating system every month, enabling software developers to build compelling digital media applications.

Windows Media Player is available immediately through Windows Update, the online extension of Windows, giving hundreds of millions of users of Windows 95, Windows 98 and the Windows NT® operating system immediate access to the advanced audio and video capabilities of Windows Media.

About Windows Media Technologies

Windows Media Technologies is the leading digital media platform, providing consumers, content providers, solution providers, software developers and corporations with unmatched audio and video quality. Windows Media Technologies 4, which includes Windows Media Player, Windows Media Services, Windows Media Tools and Windows Media Audio SDK, is available for free download at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/ (connect-time fees may apply). Over 40 million copies -- growing by more than one every second -- of the free Windows Media Player have been downloaded to date.

WindowsMedia.com ( http://windowsmedia.msn.com/ ), part of the MSN network of Internet services, is the fastest-growing major audio and video guide on the Internet. WindowsMedia.com provides access to localized audio and video content users worldwide, including over 600 radio stations and major music and video events from more than 1,000 content providers.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft is the worldwide leader in software for personal computers. The company offers a wide range of products and services for business and personal use, each designed with the mission of making it easier and more enjoyable for people to take advantage of the full power of personal computing every day.

NOTE: Microsoft, Windows Media, MSN, Windows and Windows NT are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries. Other product and company names herein may be trademarks of their respective owners.

    For more information regarding Windows Media Technologies:
    Visit http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/.

SOURCE: Microsoft Corp.




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