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Thursday, June 10 12:00 AM ET

Microsoft's New Media Player

By Allen Voivod

Redmond, WA - Microsoft released a technical beta of Windows Media Player 10 for "enthusiasts," Wired Magazine's umbrella jargon for white-, gray- and black-hat hackers. Said hackers are eager to preview the privacy, piracy and security concerns they'll be facing when the final version of the player debuts this fall.

Microsoft's R&D Department, code-named "Apple," laid the groundwork for the WMP 10 beta, which until now has been known by its alpha version code name, "iTunes."

Speaking via video conference from a Wi-Fi-shielded bunker, Microsoft founder Bill Gates hailed the release by stating, "It's not reverse engineering if you invested $150 million in the company, right?" At that, a nearby lawyer stepped forward and pulled Gates down from the podium by the earlobe.

Of particular note is WMP 10's new digital rights management technology, code-named "Janus." Rumors from disgruntled Microsoft employees border on the megalomaniacal, but the general picture that emerges is of a piracy solution that encourages file-sharing on the one hand, but tracks and transmits all such activity on the other.

The code, buried in a bundled adware executable, sends the data to a hardened Unix server farm, which resides in the 72-story building that houses the Legal Department of the Recording Industry Association of America.

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Also integrated into the beta is a first look at Microsoft's "Digital Media Mall" concept. Designed to replicate the authentic experience of shopping in a Sam Goody or Suncoast Motion Picture Company store, users will find themselves assaulted with pop-ups for licensed merchandise related to any DVD or CD viewed in WMP 10's browser window. Help functions for this feature will be comprised of surly Goth-attired teenagers giving monosyllabic answers in streaming video.

Early reviews of the technical beta have been mixed, but the most positive review came from High Times magazine's technology columnist Detlef Burr. Mr. Burr reports that the new visualizations offered in WMP 10 are trippier than those in version 9, even when the user "is bummin' 'cause all you got's the seedy bud in your disaster stash."

Story used with permission from our fine friends at DeadBrain.

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