Windows Media Player

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Windows Media Player is a free software media player used for playing audio and video on personal computers running Microsoft Windows. Microsoft has also made available versions for other operating systems including Pocket PC, Mac OS, and Solaris. These tend to lag behind the Windows versions in features, software update frequency, and the number of file formats supported. The basic file formats are WMV (Windows Media Video & Audio), WMA (Windows Media Audio), and ASF (Advanced Streaming Format).

Windows Media Player replaced an earlier piece of software simply called Media Player, adding features beyond simple video or audio playback. These include the ability to copy music to a compact disc, synchronize content with an digital audio player (MP3 player), and let users buy music from one of several online music stores.

Windows Media Player competes with other freeware programs such as RealNetworks' RealPlayer, Nullsoft's Winamp, and Apple Computer's QuickTime and iTunes.

Windows Media Player: Embrace, Extend and then Extinguish the Competition

Windows Media Player comes bundled with the Windows operating system. However, the most recent versions of the player have required the latest versions of the OS. Some view this practice as an echo of Microsoft's success in driving out Netscape Communications Corporation from its dominant position in the web browser market, only this time, they contend Microsoft is attempting to drive its competitors in the streaming media market out of business.

In March 2004, the European Commission fined Microsoft $497 million and ordered the company to provide a version of Windows without Windows Media Player, claiming Microsoft "broke European Union competition law by leveraging its near monopoly in the market for PC operating systems onto the markets for work group server operating systems and for media players".

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