Windows Media 9 to Reach Macs this Fall

Late last week, Mac users flocked to Microsoft's Windows Media Web site after rumors of an upcoming OS X port of Windows Media 9 surfaced.

Microsoft has since shed light on its game plan, telling BetaNews a fall release is in the works that will permit Mac users to create, edit and playback advanced multimedia.

A bulletin posted to the Windows Media site teased: "Coming Soon! Windows Media Player 9 Series for Mac OS X will deliver compatibility with 9 Series audio and video content."

The Windows Media 9 Series platform, formerly code-named Corona, is the crux of Microsoft's efforts to gain a foothold in the entertainment industry.

Redmond's proprietary designs -- the culmination of years of internal research and development -- rivals the MPEG-4 standard embraced by Apple and other industry leaders. Windows Media has proven to be a formidable opponent, having drawn substantial backing both online and in Hollywood film distribution.

However, the bundling of the Windows Media platform deep within Microsoft's operating system (a system restore is required for removal) has been characterized as an unfair advantage by antitrust regulators within the European Commission.

Industry watchers speculate that Microsoft fully intends for Windows Media to become the next generation media standard in lieu of MPEG.

Both MPEG and Windows Media charge royalties for distribution or transactions, and include some form of digital rights management. MPEG-4's DRM specifications are set by committee, while Microsoft's were brewed in-house amid controversy the software giant was infringing on patents from InterTrust Technologies.

A crucial preliminary hearing was lost by Microsoft after Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong ruled strongly in favor of InterTrust.

But Microsoft has not held back its digital media efforts in the face of growing criticism and legal threats.

Sustained development has led to features in Windows Media 9 Series which include: server-side playlists, so-called "Fast Stream" technology to eliminate the need for buffering delays, and a .NET centric plug-in architecture.

"Microsoft has provided a Windows Media Player for Mac users since Windows Media version 7.1," said Jason Reindorp, Group Manager of Microsoft's Digital Media Division. The current Mac release is "carbonized" and sports the Aqua user interface.

"Typically, we have released new versions of the Windows Media Player for the Mac following major updates to our platform," Reindorp told BetaNews. "We expect to have a new player for the Mac sometime this fall. We can't comment about specific features of the upcoming release until a formal announcement is made."

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