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Windows Media Player tweaks MP3 services

Microsoft on Monday will launch its Windows Media Player 7, increasing pressure on rivals such as RealNetworks.

    Microsoft on Monday will launch its Windows Media Player 7, increasing pressure on rivals such as RealNetworks.

    Analysts say Microsoft's product is not groundbreaking, but it will help the software giant establish a foothold in the highly competitive, fast-growing market.

    "In the long term, we are going to see the marketplace settle around one or two primary media players rather than having the kind of muddle of media players that we have now," said Forrester Research's media and entertainment analyst, Eric Scheirer. Microsoft will remain among them, he added.

    Windows Media Player 7, which came out in a preview, or "beta," release in March, offers a media player that includes new audio CD technology from Adaptec. The player also offers CD burning.

    "Our all-in-one media player is designed to make digital music accessible to the everyday consumer, the everyday user and not necessarily the technology-focused consumer or early adopter," said Kevin Unangst, group product manager for Microsoft's digital media division.

    Microsoft added a Swimming with sharksfeature that provides the ability to create audio CDs from digital media. Using a CD burner, Windows Media player 7 lets people convert digital music, including MP3 and Windows Media files stored on a person's hard drive, into a standard audio CD for a home or car stereo.

    Analysts are not overwhelmed, however. "It doesn't look to me like there's anything particularly revolutionary in Windows Media Player 7," Sheirer said.

    To increase distribution, Microsoft has struck an agreement with record label EMI Recorded Music to offer more than 100 albums and more than 40 singles using the Windows Media Player 7 in a trial offer.