We have become a nation that enjoys listening to music, participating in webinars online, or watching videos of various kinds, from full-length movies to short clips. Indeed, in many ways, we prefer to interact with our technological devices rather than face to face!
Our society is mesmerized with cell phones that do almost everything except cook dinner; exercise enthusiasts are seen with ear buds listening to their favorite modes of entertainment; and increasingly technology is rallying to meet the demands of a sophisticated new generation.
There are thousands of applications available to both the desktop computer user, as well as the mobile aficionado. The best known are Apple and Microsoft, which run neck and neck in user popularity and availability on new devices. With the worldwide popularity of Microsoft programs, it is understandable that the company would try to integrate all available functionality to its end user. So it is with its Windows Media Player, which is a software developed to enable listening or viewing of favorite media on a personal computer and mobile devices, as well as the ability to download, share, copy and burn media onto other devices, such as CDs and DVDs.
There is a certain satisfaction to be had from learning to manipulate these devices, and availing oneself of all they have to offer in the form of entertainment. To be sure, there are many other application developers that address the listening needs of the public, and will be reviewed in more detail below. But for sheer ubiquitousness, Microsoft’s Windows Media Player takes first place as a standout in the field. The first version of the Windows Media Player was introduced in 1991, but was not available as an independent application until much later. Nowadays, of course, Windows Media Player enjoys the popularity of Microsoft technology, and enjoys special status as an independent retail application universally available.
The most obvious feature of this application is that it is used to play various forms of media, from music, talks, and video. For example, if you want to listen to music, you would download it into the media player, select it, and press the icon that indicates Play. But there are other more sophisticated functions available in the media player. For example, there is a function called Library, where an entire collection of media items is listed; there is a Rip function, which allows you to copy media onto your hard drive or removable disc; there is the Burn function, which is the process of copying audio or video onto a CD or DVD, so you can carry it around with you. You can create playlists, where you identify your selections and the order in which you wish to listen to them, say, Classical with a list of Chopin etudes and Mozart symphonies, or Smooth Jazz 7/15/2013 where you place your selections of your favorite jazz, etc.
You may thus access your various playlists as you choose. The Library, too, is a repository where you can list your downloads, and the software is sophisticated enough to assign icons depending on what kind of media is stored, say, musical notes to signify music, or a camera to signify video. You can then jump around your playlists or your library, selecting whichever items you choose at the moment, shuffle them about at random, and play them at random. The Sync feature allows users to connect and share media with portable hand-held devices. There are many other features to the media player, including visualizations, showing Alchemy, Bars and Waves, and simulating a media studio, as well as format support, which allows users to cross-link their devices with other makers.
To be sure, there are other players in the game. Media players come in many variations and from many companies, some free, others at some cost. They all have certain features which are universal among media players. The biggest challenger to Windows is Apple Computer, of course, known as QuickTime or iTunes. But there are others, as well, and they all strive to enable downloading music or video, categorizing it, copying it, sharing it, and viewing/listening to it. It is a matter of preference by the user, and frequently, the same user will have several that he or she toggles between, depending on mood. Linux Distributions provide preloaded media players, including SMPlayer, Amarok and Audacious, while Western Digital includes Pandora, Netflix and YouTube. Each software application aspires to enable cross-format downloads and listening ability, as well as the ability to switch between stationary and portable devices.
With such features as skinning, or the ability to change the look and feel of the application, the visualization capabilities that allow the user to see bars and waves as in a recording studio, as well as media streaming to and from universal plug-and-play devices, there is no end to how this technology has revolutionized the way we listen and watch our favorite programs, and one can only dream of what could come next from the imagination of the visionaries at Microsoft. As a fan of Microsoft products, the writer will stay with those software applications that have stood the test of time and continue to innovate and remain in the forefront of computer users.
Microsoft Corporation is the preeminent software developer in the world, so much so that it has often been the victim of lawsuits alleging monopolies of various kinds. Be that as it may, there is no question that it continues to innovate and expand its offerings of software applications in every possible configuration, and for every conceivable need. Video was first available as an add-on to Windows 3.1, and later included in Windows 95 and NT. Later innovations included ActiveMovie, renamed as DirectShow, and the Media Player underwent several version revisions until Windows XP, which is the last operating system to incorporate three different versions of the media player. Beginning with Windows Vista, there was a big revamping of the software to allow it to play in different formats.
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