Microsoft Windows Media Player 11 ready to sing

A week after the company had initially hoped to debut the new jukebox player, it posts a free download of the program.

Microsoft on Monday said it shipped a new version of Windows Media Player, a week after the company had initially hoped to debut the new jukebox player.

The software maker posted the free download of Windows Media Player 11 for Windows XP after months of testing the new program, which includes built-in support for Urge, a subscription music service co-developed with MTV.

Microsoft originally planned to ship Windows Media Player 11 last week, but said it was not quite up to snuff.

The new media player is the second key feature of Windows Vista being made available to XP users ahead of the new operating system. Earlier this month, Microsoft released the final version of Internet Explorer 7 for Windows XP. The Vista versions of both titles will look somewhat different and have a few extra features as well. Microsoft is slated to wrap up development of Vista and start selling it to large businesses next month, with the operating system hitting store shelves in January.

The release of Urge and the new media software have been somewhat overshadowed, given that during the year since Microsoft announced its plans, it has decided to offer its own Zune player and companion subscription service. The $250 Zune is set to go on sale in mid-November.

In addition to Urge, the new media player features improved searching, a more visual interface and supports new formats for ripping and playing music, namely Windows Media Audio Professional and WAV Lossless.

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