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Windows XP will support MP3 for extra fees

PC World
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By Joris Evers

(IDG) -- If you want to rip CDs of MP3 files using Windows XP, you'll have to pay extra for the function.

Microsoft is offering that capability in its upcoming operating system only through add-ons that will be marketed by three partner companies. The utilities for Windows XP will let you turn CD tracks into high-quality MP3 files. They're planned to be available for the scheduled release of Windows XP on October 25.

The move could help Microsoft fend off criticism that it seeks to crush the MP3 format by only supporting its own Windows Media Audio format. Microsoft fuelled criticism when it included an inferior MP3 encoder in a test version of Windows XP. The software only allowed encoding at low bit rates, resulting in files with poor sound quality.

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Add-ons will be available from CyberLink, InterVideo, and Ravisent Technologies, which all make software that competes with Microsoft's Windows Media Player. Each will offer two add-on packs for Windows XP, one providing full MP3 support and the other DVD playback.

Microsoft will promote the software through links from Windows Media Player for Windows XP. Pricing is not announced, but each add-on will carry a fee above the price of Windows XP.

Added Functions Cost

However, the add-ons will enable you to rip CDs and create MP3 files with Windows Media Player. Until now the software only offered a playback feature; creating MP3s required software from Microsoft's competitors, such as RealNetworks. The DVD software will let you play back DVDs in Windows Media Player.

Without the add-ons, Windows Media Player can convert audio tracks from CDs into files in the WMA format. Microsoft contends that WMA offers CD-quality sound in half the size of MP3 files.

CyberLink markets the PowerDVD player, which it's adapting for Windows XP. InterVideo will sell Windows XP versions of its WinRip CD ripper and WinDVD software DVD player. Ravisent is already promoting its Windows XP add-on packs for DVDs and MP3s.

Each of the three add-on vendors plans to bundle its DVD and MP3 programs into a single package, as well as selling them separately. The DVD Decoder Pack is only needed if you have a DVD drive installed in your PC, but do not have a DVD decoder pre-installed.

Despite its nod to MP3, Microsoft continues to lobby for WMA support. The company last week enlisted Pressplay to use its WMA format. The joint venture between Vivendi Universal and Sony Music will also use Microsoft's digital-rights-management technology for its forthcoming online subscription music service.





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