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Windows XP to Target MP3 Files 586

blown.penguin writes: "Reuters UK reports that Microsoft and RealNetworks plan to "wean customers way from MP3 files" and "limit the quality" of MP3 files that can be recorded on a computer running Windows XP. You can read all about it here." The entire Wall Street Journal story is here. Read it and weep. Dave Farber (who, incidentally, does understand the issues and isn't making this comment in a "get used to it" sense) has a great quote: "The consumer is going to eat what he's given."
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Windows XP to Target MP3 Files

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Built in codec in 98 already has mp3 encoding ability thats limited to 56k

    WHATS FUCKING NEW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    farks sake, FUD FUD from clueless journos and clueless sales/press people that are dumber than an ant.
  • I noticed a few weeks ago that RealPlayer Basic already restricts encodings to 96kbps. Of course, you can currently use a different encoder or buy the full version.

    It's not bad to encourage people to move away from MP3s -- it's definitely not the best encoding technology out there. Of course, forcing people to use RealAudio or Windows Media Audio is not quite kosher..

    [Insert OGG Vorbis plug..]

    There is a question of legality, considering that Microsoft is again bundling a popular technology with their OS, rather than letting the market forces play out.
  • Well, some software that worked on Win9x/Me probably doesn't work properly with XP, considering the mixed heritage with NT/2000. Things just work differently between the two branches, so 9x software might run into trouble.
  • by Wakko Warner ( 324 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @05:47AM (#296268) Homepage Journal
    They're only limiting the rate at which their *own* software can create MP3s (to 56k). If you were to download LAME for Windows, or any of the myriad other MP3 encoders for Windows, you'd still be able to create MP3s at whichever rate you wanted to.

    Who the hell uses Windows' built-in applications anyway?

    - A.P.

    Forget Napster. Why not really break the law?

  • Don't forget that just because WMP8 provides the functionality doesn't mean that you have to use it. Even if the provided windows software is there and crappy, doesn't mean that people will never use MP3s again.... why can't they just use third party apps like they always have?
  • It's hardly an open standard- mp3 has lots of its own problems. But with the incredible hostility towards it, in a way that keeps Fraunhofer from running amok. Balance of power :)
  • Here's an interesting perspective on the matter... just occurred to me how this could be a good thing, in a peculiar way.

    Let's assume that Microsoft gets its way, that it genuinely does have the ability to make a majority of mp3 files 56K or whatever. To some extent this will proliferate WMA, but in addition it will simply proliferate 56K mp3 files: many people really don't seem to care.

    So, rather than Napster being full of major label music ripped skippily off CDs and encoded at 128 with Xing, Napster (or its equivalent) will be full of major label music ripped skippily off CDs and encoded at 56K using an intentionally bad encoder- or at 128K with the same intentionally bad encoder, if people learn to change the registry key.

    Meanwhile, some of us in the content producing and open source code writing arenas are busily producing content that can be encoded much better (LAME, with special settings to handle 'mastering' to mp3) from CD audio- and even that can be done much better than the industry's overcompressed, intentionally-full-of-errors-for-copy-protection efforts.

    While there is still any channel for independent artistic expression- while it is still legal to make your own music and make mp3s of it and put them out there- the playing field is being tilted in two directions at once. It's being tilted legislatively away from indie content producers, and this is the obvious way. But! With all this cynical the-consumer-will-eat-slops-and-love-it thinking from the big corporations, the playing field of quality is being tilted TOWARD indies. I mean, when you can fool around with some synthesisers, maybe a bit of recording equipment, free audio software, and produce music that has audio quality that is _dramatically_ superior to the corporate product, there is something major happening, with major implications for the image of corporate entertainment. And you can- the fact that the big labels, that Microsoft _are_ capable of producing quality output does not mean they're going to, or that they want to. The labels are busy trying to out-loud each other on the increasingly ignored Top 40 radio stations- this is a well known scandal among mastering engineers. They're increasingly turning to cheap production methods like Pro Tools and _ignoring_ their ability to draw on really top of the line studios and talent. And Microsoft? Let me put it this way: "56K WMA built into the OS- 128K and up WMA available over .NET on a pay-per-encode basis!". This isn't 1998. Microsoft are NOT IN A POSITION to reproduce their previous successes with WMA- they have too much of a need to tie it in with .NET and this will get in the way of widespread adoption of it- the jaws of the trap are just too obvious this time, and the 'worse-is-better' alternative, mp3, is just too entrenched.

    It's a very good, though very nerve-racking, time to be involved with Free software, with indie music and arts. Rarely in history have our enemies been so powerful, but rarely have they been so sloppy, contemptuous, and full of hubris.

    Frankly, it is not time to weep. It is time to kick ass and take no prisoners.

  • The filesystem layer could detect when an MP3 file is being written by looking at the header. If the quality is too great, then it would interfere with the writing process; e.g. cause the WriteFile() system call to fail. Or it could even put a block of zeros into the file.

    Taken a step further, the operating system could require special authentication from the software before it allows a file with an MP3 header to be written at all. The authentication could be produced by requesting the app to produce a hash of a region of its machine code, just like what AOL did with their IM client.

    Of course, what would happen is that the music sharing community would come up with a trivial way to disguise the MP3 file when it is stored on Windows. MP3 files will simply have to be ``pickled'' for storage on a Windows system. Decoders would read the pickled format as handily as raw MP3 and life goes on.

    Because of the easy way to get around the scheme, I doubt it will be implemented. I suspect that this is may be a case of product management leaking their wishful thinking before checking the feasibility with development. :)
  • Whoever at MS thinks Joe User will stick to 56kbp is smoking crack.

    I didn't see where it said they'd do that? What it said is that the MP3s are limited to that quality, but other formats aren't. Ergo, people will use the "higher-quality" formats..

    Everyone will simply use Winamp or one of the hundreds of other MP3 tools.

    Which "coincidentally" broke in the new Windows version, according to the article..

  • But I still fail to see why users will choose something that's more user-hostile when they don't have to.

    My father uses some fancy proprietary sound format because he believes it will keep him from accidentally illegally copying files. Make of it what you will.

  • I'd love to know how this is going to be accomplished. Prevent Windows Media Player from playing mp3s / recording over a certain bitrate? Sure. Prevent another mp3 player from doing this? How, exactly?

    I don't think they need to; most people will use what they're given, and if the Microsoft Spiffy Audio Format sounds better, they'll use that.

  • Remember kids, computer history is littered with companies who failed to get their userbase to upgrade. Now, the real question is MS's grip on the OEMs -- will they switch to XP completely, or will ME remain on the price sheet?

    It will be interesting to see what happens, but I am not expecting Microsoft to have to squeeze the OEMs too terribly hard. Especially since it is in the OEMs best interests to have Windows XP do well (it requires beefier hardware).

    In the end, it will be up to the customers who decide if Windows XP will fly or not. If Microsoft pushes consumers or OEMs towards Windows XP too hard then you can bet that they will only increase the tendency of their customers to look for alternatives.

  • *sigh*... no. Windows XP will be adopted for the same reason Windows ME is being adopted: OEM bundling. No one buys OSs on purpose, they buy a computer, and it needs an OS. What they get will be whatever Microsoft wants to give them.

    And, given that XP is NT-based and ME is still basically a DOS patch, maybe old windows users will be essentially forced to upgrade -- if all the new programs come out "WinXP/2000 compatible," then you are stuck if you don't have an NT-based windows.

    Microsoft could guarantee OS penetration with pre-loading when PC sales were going like crazy, but that's simply not the case anymore. For example, there are a lot more people using Windows 95 still than Windows ME, and these two OSes are basically compatible with each other. Meaning that it was perfectly safe for the Windows 9X user to purchase a computer with Windows ME on it and expect that his software would still run.

    This isn't the case with Windows XP, and it is going to cause Microsoft more than its share of fits. Unless Microsoft discontinues Windows ME completely there are still going to be some people who will prefer it. Especially if it allows them to buy a less expensive computer.

    As for developers, my guess is that they will almost certainly continue to develop software that runs on Win 9X. After all, that's where all of the customers are, and Windows XP doesn't really have any "features" that are so compelling that it would cause developers to want to narrow their market to just Windows XP users. Even Microsoft makes sure that new versions of their desktop software runs on Windows 95.

    I think they've got this one in the bag. D'oh.

    Once again, we'll see. They have got a lot of momentum, and they have the preload market locked up. But times are tight, and Windows XP is just an OS. In many ways it is less desireable to the home and small business user than Windows 9X, and Microsoft's new draconian IP rights technologies are not going to make people happy. A slow quarter for the computer market that was attributed to customer dissatisfaction with Windows XP would send Microsoft back to the drawing board, and it would accelerate "alternatives" like never before.

    At the end of the day the old adage "the customer is always right" is the surest way to maintain your customer base, and if Microsoft keeps their antics up they will eventually learn that the hard way. I am not saying that Windows XP will be the crack in the dam that starts the flood of customers away from Windows. Microsoft still has a fairly commanding lead on the desktop, for now. They would have to push the OEMs fairly hard for there to be any chance of an open revolt. But it's only a matter of time if Microsoft doesn't worry more about their customers.

  • There is nothing wrong with the WMA format, other than the fact that it isn't an open format (you can only get a WMA player from Microsoft or one of their licensees), and that is has content management built in (meaning it will be possible to tie your WMAs to one machine).

    Now, if you can't imagine a day when you might want to play your music on a non-Microsoft licensed piece of equipment, and you can't imagine ever wanting to move your files from your present computer to a future one, then you are right, the WMA file format is great.

    Yes, I realize that this is paranoid, and probably delusional. But why would Microsoft build this sort of stuff into the format if they weren't planning on turning the features on eventually.

    Fortunately, we can just as easily use the Ogg Vorbis format, which is also very good, and get most of the benefits of WMA without all of the hassles (and potential hassles). It's patent free, it's licensed under a BSD style license, and it is supported in all of the more popular players (including some upcoming hardware based players). My guess is that WMA will soon be the medium of choice for the music industry, and Ogg Vorbis will be the medium of choice for everyone else.

  • Good enough and less expensive always wins.

    That's why I think that Windows XP is doomed unless Windows ME is taken off of the market.

  • by Jason Earl ( 1894 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @07:48AM (#296284) Homepage Journal

    Linux is an OS. People are not going to reinstall/delete their harddrive over this. What about their games? What about compatiblility with what they use at work?

    The same could easily be said for Windows XP. Believe it or not Microsoft has got to sell Windows XP. If Windows XP is chuck full of stupid "features" that are actually disincentives to the upgrade then people will stick with what they have. This is nearly as dangerous for Microsoft as if the user had switched to Linux. Remember, Microsoft's biggest competitor isn't Corel, or Oracle, or IBM, or even the amorphous "Linux," Micrsoft's biggest competitor is previous versions of their own software.

    Even worse issues like games and compatibility with work also make it more likely that people will stick with what they have. I don't know of any businesses that have rolled out Windows XP (nor do I know of any that have done a serious desktop rollout of Windows 2000, for that matter). They should be making their operating system as attractive to buyers as they possibly can. Instead they are lining up an initiative to treat their customers as copyright breaking thieves. Things like WMA and the new copy protection scheme aren't likely to entire current Windows users to this new OS.

    Meanwhile Linux will continue to grow. naysayers have been predicting its imminent demise since it's first arrival on the scene, and they have always been spectacularly wrong. The reason for this is simple, Linux is too darned useful. It's price tag is a siren song for hackers and entrepreneurs everywhere, and the cost of maintaining the infrastructure that keeps Linux alive is negligible. Microsoft can't bankrupt Linux, it can't buy Linux, and it can't intimidate enough Linuxers to make a difference.

    This doesn't make Linux better than Windows. I personally don't think that Linux is ready for the desktop, for example. But it does guarantee that Linux will keep growing, and that it will continue to become a more viable alternative every day. If Microsoft continues to misuse their customers they will someday find that most of them are jumping ship.

  • Firstly, most users don't use Linux; their applications and the boundaries of their comfort zone (they're not hardcore hackers or open-source zealots, remember, but ordinary people who don't care about computers as long as they do the job) keep them bound to Windows; therefore, it would be far easier for them to switch to WMA.

    Secondly, the goal of this is to encourage those producing content (i.e., unsigned bands, musicians, &c) to use WMA instead of MP3. If MP3 can only be heard by those savvy and picky enough to download WinAmp and WMA works out of the box, guess which they'll post on their web site?

    Mind you, this seems to be, from the article, just about the audio encoding feature of MS's standard software. It will play MP3s at full rate (for the time being; though auto-degrading them in the name of defending copyright may be on the board), and you can create MP3s with other software (and presumably those who actually publish content will obtain such software).

    If J. Random Newbie wants to use a proprietary Microsoft format for storing their ripped CDs on their home PC, it doesn't really affect MP3. Though in a few years time, a generation of users will associate audio with WMA, and MP3 being as obscure as Type 1 fonts on a PC, support for MP3 may be dropped across the board.
  • Copy control may be exactly why Linux on the desktop can only decline.

    To whit: consumers will demand that their machines play media. Media producers (Hollywood, the Recording Racket, &c.) will not sanction any formats that's not locked down to the hilt. It is impossible to make a "trusted client" player on any system where the filthy thieving user can recompile the kernel to capture audio (oops, there goes your Secure Audio Path!) or bypass anti-debugging protection and pull encryption keys out of memory images.

    If consumer Linux succeeds, it will be on sealed devices where the user cannot replace the kernel without voiding the warranty (and probably committing a felony under the DMCA).
  • Most people (who aren't information-wants-to-be-free radicals) don't care about formats, as long as the magic box works when they push the button. Less support for one file format when there are others provided (such as Windows Media) won't make them make the effort to download the extra software.

    As for MP3 support, other companies may drop it as well. Do you think AOL Time Warner will zealously defend WinAMP's playback of uncontrolled MP3s, or (at the behest of their music division) drop it as soon as WMA becomes the dominant format, perhaps even encouraging users to migrate?
  • Most people (outside of here) use only Windows on the desktop. Non-Microsoft platforms are irrelevant from a numbers perspective.

    By supporting non-MS media formats, a media producer would get as much extra market share as by translating into Esperanto.
  • By that argument, blocking the distribution of open-source DVD decoders is also restraint of trade, and is clearly not allowed. Though that's not what the courts said.

    If Microsoft frame their restrictions on CD ripping (i.e., requiring ripping applications to be signed, and signing only those which strictly enforce copy control, or even only their own) as a measure to prevent piracy of recordings, they will most probably get away with it.
  • How do you participate in your culture then? By vegetating in front of your television, remote in hand? By sending feedback tto its creators through buying products advertised on the shows? Can you actually interact with it, or are you stuck just passively consuming it like tube-fed nutrients?

    This is not being elitist; there is culture at all levels, though you're more likely to find it in the streets around your home than in the committee-scripted, machine-made TV shows beamed down from on on high.
  • by acb ( 2797 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @10:00AM (#296291) Homepage
    The mass media is not culture. Culture is not something made by the beautiful freaks of Hollywood and an army of marketroids and handed down from the megacorps to the hungry, bored consumer masses below; culture is something people create and interact and participate in. And buying consumer goods product-placed in TV shows doesn't count as participation in culture.

    If you want to see culture, go to a band venue and see some live bands, or to an art exhibition, or read a book. But if you don't make the effort to participate, it is not culture. Purchased experiences don't count.

    There is little difference between a sedentary, passive couch potato and the most benighted barbarian; in fact, it is arguable that most "primitive" societies, with their rituals and oral traditions, have infinitely more culture per capita than contemporary Western consumerist society.

  • The only reason that MP3s are used more is because they are the standard now and since there are so much more of them out there compared to WMA, they will remain as the prime music format...until some radically different format comes out :-)

    Actually, mp3 is used more than wma because mp3 is an OPEN standard. It is supported on just about EVERY platform out there (win, mac, *nix, BSD, Be, etc...). It's's's's's portable...and it works.

    In order for ANY format to "replace" mp3 as a "de facto" standard, it will have to match or beat mp3 on all of these points. wma doesn't do that. I'ts only supported on platforms MS sees fit to support it on. It's not portable - with all the copy-protection crap. Yes, it may compress better while still retaining sound quality - but compression isn't everything.

  • ...ahem..."Cartman". One word.
  • by ajv ( 4061 )
    CuteRip works just fine.
  • Windows Xp is targeted first and foremost as a consumer OS. It will be replacing Win Me, which in my personal opinion is excellent. No more DOS! No more instability.

    Anyway, Win2K has not been, and is not a flop. Most of the places I'm working at now are getting ready to deploy it as SP1 is out, SP2 is on the way, and more large sites have done the guinea pig bit for them, so they, too, can be lemmings.

    However, I do agree with you, there are certain business practices that Microsoft needs to stop and consider before doing or else this will be point historians will point at, and say "Microsoft's decline started in 2001, when customers balked at..." Microsoft is completely customer driven, and if the customers do not come across, then they are stuffed.

  • by ajv ( 4061 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @05:51AM (#296298) Homepage

    I say never let facts get in the way of a good Microsoft bashing article on /. For the very, very few of you using beta 2, the following registry key is of interest.

    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\MediaPlaye r\ Settings\MP3Encoding]

    Just change it. The above will change it 128k (from 56k). The UI shows this and reflects it.

    Also Media Player 8 will allow you to encode .wma files without setting the license keys. I'm not sure that this will make it to the final release, or even WMP9, but ...

  • by ajv ( 4061 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @06:10AM (#296299) Homepage

    /. ... Microsoft ... FUD... where to begin? Let's start with some facts from a beta tester.

    In beta 2, the supplied MP3 encoder gets its Low Rate setting from the registry. This is set at the factory to 56k. You can go into the registry and change 56k to 128k or whatever. And it works, but 64k .wma files sound better than 128k mp3 files, and use less than half the space. And, so far, you can continue to turn off licensing your .wma files.

    There are no NTFS or other deliberate data corruption ploys. I have existing MP3 files that play just fine in WMP and in WinAmp (which also continues to work).

    CuteRip, my favorite ripper before WMP, continues to work, and continues to encode at whatever setting I set it to. WMP 8 plays these files just fine. But compared to WMP8, CuteRip is feature poor and slow. WMP8 not only goes and grabs the titles without paying for it, it retrieves album art work and orders it properly for you in your media library. As soon as you start ripping in WMP8, it starts playing the encoded files, and it encodes both .wma or .mp3 on my PIII/700 laptop about 3x real time. It's flawless. There seems to be no penalty for playing whilst ripping. It has digital and analog error correction if your CDs have a few scratches like mine do.

    Microsoft may or may not ship a MP3 encoder with WMP 8, but it is in beta 2. Microsoft may or may not ship WMP 8 with the ability to turn off licensing .wma files, but it is in beta 2.

    Sorry for the barrage of facts. I'm now returing you to your regularly scheduled fact-free Microsoft bash.

  • by jamiemccarthy ( 4847 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @05:54AM (#296301) Homepage Journal
    "somebody will make a program that rips cd's into a weird new extensions like .FMS (fuck microsoft) instead of .mp3

    stupid winxp will not realize what's going on..."

    WinXP will be leased, not bought. It will contact a server at Microsoft headquarters every n days to confirm whether it needs "system updates" or not. And if your net connection is down for more than k days, your system will refuse to run, so don't think you can just pull the ethernet jack and use a (crippled) system.

    If a program to use your .FMS extension ever gets more than 1,000 users, Microsoft will patch the operating system to exclude it, and within a few days your workaround will stop working.

    This will happen back and forth a few times until 99% of the userbase gets thoroughly sick of it and uses whatever format Microsoft makes it easy to use. Ease-of-use, slow and steady, wins the race.

    Don't think Microsoft will zap out your program from Redmond? Think DirecTV []. They own the operating system from boot to shutdown. No matter how clever you are, they will take your program down remotely.

    That's the short-term fix. In the long-term, 5 to 10 years, you will find that Microsoft and the hardware manufacturers will team up to create an audio standard which requires you to know a secret key to put data to your computer's speakers. If you don't apply to Microsoft for a special license, your program will be unable to make noise -- without going through Microsoft's API, of course, which will make only noises guaranteed not to infringe copyright, like boops, beeps, or files stored in whatever format Microsoft makes it easy to use.

    Enterprising hackers will of course find and steal secret keys, so that they can release freeware MP3 players that run on Windows. But again, as soon as these programs get popular enough to show up on Microsoft's radar, the operating system will download the new patches which specifically forbid these programs from working.

    Try to understand. Microsoft's eventual plan is that you will not own your computer anymore. They will own your computer, and lease its use to you on very specific licensing terms. Their long-term goal is that people who try to use their computers like Turing machines, thinking they can make them do anything they want, will go to jail.

    Jamie McCarthy

  • Okay... i like how the article says that MP3 is the only format that napster distributes (let's assume for a minute NAPSTER is the one doing it). So... um. How long do they think it will take before napster scans your drive for other formats? Seriously. Are people this blinded by the word technology? They think that there is some magical technological force at work here? Napster just shares files. People will use other programs to play MP3s other than Media Player and Real. What a concept. "Hey this sounds better with WinAmp, I'll use that." Wow, technology==magic.

  • Well, I have had a chance to see the new windows "Whislter" (or whatever its named) the other day, well to say the least I wasn't impressed. It reminds me of the win95 to 98 upgrade...take 95 and add some new graphics, and they were done. It took a second edition of win98 to make it almost bearable. The new windows is a w2k makover, the start button pulls up the integrated ms web page. Although you can set it to work like normal, this looks to be the moron's version of windows, designed for the webtv owner.

    As for integrated software, I have toyed with win ME. The media player is not that great, and why in the world would you use that when there is quite a few quality mp3 player/rippers out there. Musicmatch jukebox is my favorite right now, and it can rip cd's with the best of them.

    As for replacing mp3, well that will not really happen on the local computer. Where it will happen is the paid for downloads that will soon become available. That is where real and ms will get thier hooks into the people. They won't be able to leagaly stop windows users from playing mp3's or stop programs from doing it properly either, but they can start replacing the leagally downloadable version.

  • Honestly, I don't think ms is really concerned with us. The target victim is the moron who really doens't understand any of this. They buy a computer with windows pre-installed and use whats there. They dont even realize they can dload something better. Now they decided to rip a cd, big step for them, and the windows format sounds better. To your average moron they think ms is wonderful because they make the music sound better than mp3. Although this isnt true, they don't realize this and to them its true.

    Also all the buy it online music will start changing to this format, and for the moron it just confirms thier conviction ms format is better.

    Try as we might its the moron that lets these things get out of hand. Due to lack of knowledge...or desire to get the knowledge, they accept what is handed to them regardless that it smells like crap. They just don't care.
  • by hatless ( 8275 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @08:30AM (#296308)
    You wrote:
    That's the short-term fix. In the long-term, 5 to 10 years, you will find that Microsoft and the hardware manufacturers will team up to create an audio standard which requires you to know a secret key to put data to your computer's speakers. If you don't apply to Microsoft for a special license, your program will be unable to make noise -- without going through Microsoft's API, of course, which will make only noises guaranteed not to infringe copyright, like boops, beeps, or files stored in whatever format Microsoft makes it easy to use.

    It's here already. It's called Secure Audio Path. Windows ME can do it, and XP will ship with it built in. See this, [] among other items.

    The idea is that with compliant audio hardware--presumably all audio hardware within a year or two--an encrypted stream will be handed to "smart" audio hardware. If it's a secured media format, it needs to be decrypted, upon authorization, by the hardware. If it's unencrypted, it will only play if it's not watermarked. Similar work has been done on video hardware that would refuse to display cracked, watermarked video streams.

    Even if you have Linux drivers for this hardware, and even if you can get to your BIOS settings, which Microsoft now demands be undocumented onscreen as a condition to granting hardware certification, and somehow manage to install Linux on this new hardware, the audio hardware is doing rights management for you.

    Air supply thus cut off. Checkmate.
  • by Thag ( 8436 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @06:03AM (#296310) Homepage
    What, exactly, is the value for me the consumer in buying this POS operating system anyway?

    My apps won't work, the interface is dumbed down and therefore aggravating, backwards compatibility is questionable, and let's not forget the damn thing won't even be servicable for two more service packs!

    What? What the fsck is the POINT?

    Honestly, I'm glad I've been looking into Linux, because I'm going to FORCED onto Linux!

    Jon Acheson
  • This is typical MS Embrace, Extend, Extinguish tactics only they are dumb enough to come right out with it. If they didn't come public with this then Windows XP users would have "learned" that Microsofts proprietary software was better. Little would they have known that Microsoft had crippled the MP3 implementation so it generated larger files and poorer quality. How many Windows API's do this to other competing application technologies which they DON'T COME CLEAN ON? I believe this is Microsofts way of getting the music industry monopoly to bless/accept Microsofts formats. The first phase of eventually owning THAT market. Real is doing the same but they can't pull the Pre-Install gig that Microsoft can and if they do then Microsoft will pull "a Netscape" on them.

    I know this isn't going to stop 3rd party developers from providing solutions but with 90% of the computing population willing to take whatever is handed to them Pre-Installed, this could corrupt MP3's usefullness as a sharing technology.



  • Ford doesn't have a monopoly and if they did they would have to leverage that power illegally as Microsoft has done for your "Ford" argument to hold water.

    If Microsoft wasn't a monopoly ( even in the eyes of the US courts ) which used that power to prevent products from getting to the PC users then your argument is acceptable. But that is NOT the case. I like the fact that some very nice software is free but what Microsoft did to Netscape and many others is BAD for the industry and bad for users. The fact that there is a operating system, which is free, has nothing to do with what Microsoft is doing with MP3's on pre-installed software and has everything to do with what Microsoft has done in the past to prevent competition in a open market. What Microsoft does is not within the framework of the laws governing capitalism....


  • by Locutus ( 9039 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @09:55AM (#296313)
    I wonder if the customers asked for Microsoft to downgrade the quality of MP3 recording capabilities? I wonder if customers asked for a non-standard Java implementation? I wonder if customers asked for a booting systems which makes it really hard to boot other OS's?

    This is another Microsoft Embrace/Extend/Extinguish tacktic which gives them the right to dictate the contend on CUSTOMERS computers. What's next html, XML, smtp, or any open standard? Would Quicktime, Real, or other proprietary technology also get downgraded by Microsoft Pre-Installed applications?

    I think THAT is why people are upset about this. IMHO.

  • On Linux:

    Ripper: Grip
    Player: Xmms (with plugin)

    On Windows:

    Ripper: CD-Ex (untested)
    Player: Sonique, WinAmp(with Plugin)

    What's the next excuse?

    Oh, I've got one: MP3CD Players occasionally play WMAs and never play Ogg files. Yeah, and you can't DnD .ogg files and have them converted to CDA files. Yet.

    Ogg Vorbis is a great format. I wish it luck.
  • Does anyone not remember that Windows NEVER came with a high quality MP3 codec? They had a rather restricted codec (56kbps, I believe) which was licensed from FhG included with Media Player 7 (I believe). Big deal... Just install your licensed codec and things are back to normal. I highly doubt that anyone at Microsoft would be ignorant enough to limit the types of codecs which can be installed, as this would eliminate the possiblity that XP be used for Audio / Video production.

  • Steve,

    You are 100% correct. :-)

    If you want serious .MP3 encoding, you do it with something like WinAmp. I do know that a new version of WinAmp is in development that will be fully WinXP compatible.

    Let's see how long before we see a WinXP compatible version of the Ogg Vorbis software, too.
  • In other words, Microsoft can kiss my ogg.


  • I find it amusing that they are trying what history has shown has always failed: Balkanization. It didn't work for Metternick and it won't work for Gates.

    They are still attempting to lock-in their user base.

    If that had worked we'd all still be using the length of the king's thumb (le pouce) to measure lengths of cloth, using different sized wax cylinders to make recordings and forget about power utilities: AC vs. DC and a bazillion different voltages would insure that there was no such thing as an electronic industry.

    There is a thriving film and camera industry because T.A. Edison held his thumb and fore-finger 35 milimeters apart when asked how big film should be and everybody made that a standard and followed it.

    That's not to say that there aren't other film formats: 120mm, 70mm, 140mm.

    But 35mm and the SLR hand-held are overwhelmingly accepted for a host of uss because the form fits humans and that's all there is to it.

    MP3s being denied to consumers because its inconvenient for M$. Please, that approach's about as smart as left-handed monkey wrenches.

    MP3 is not the ultimate format, but, like T.A.E. finger-width, its a good base, until some plutocrat decides to try to deprive consumers of what they want.

    Now is there any doubt left that Bill Gates and the other playground bullies just want your money and don't give a crap about you and would leave your broken bodies by the side of the road as they walk away with your wallet from the scene of the crime?
  • by Kope ( 11702 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @07:16AM (#296326)

    What is happening, and what will continue to happen, is that the corporate interests will come together to limit the consumer's IP rights not through legislation (though they are trying that route very successfully as well) but through the coercive force of product lines. By making it very inconvinient for the average consumer (and face it folks, /. readers aren't average consumers of computer gear!) to excercise their rights under current copyright law, the manufacturers can errode those rights.

    If you can't make a recording for fair use without hacking hardware and software, then you won't be making that recording, if you are the average consumer. And after a few years of virtually no-one excercising their rights to fair-use, the notion that those rights exist will slowly be eroded and THEN it will be far easier to pass legislation outright stripping those rights from the public.

    The problem with this, and similar stories, is that no effective public information campaign will be fought against it. Anyone who stands up and yells "foul" will be shot down as either an evil napster-esque hacker/cracker or an anti-Microsoft bigot. In either case you will be considered safe to ignore by the average consumer - adn the result will be that teh sheople will do what the corporations want them to do.

    The only real way to counter this trend is to get congress to pass legislation that mandates that any consumer recording/playback device include the ability for people to excercise their fair use rights on all media forms that are handled in recording/playback -- either in the product or in an optional add-on. This will stop the trend of making products that are "broken" with regards to fair-use by design. Unfortunately, it will have the side-effect of increasing cost of consumer goods, as the corporate entities will use that sort of law as an excuse to raise prices.

    Of course, such a law will never happen, congress is far to beholden to the big corporations to ever do anything to actually protect the people from bad corporate policies. So those of us who are clued can watch in frustration as our ability to excercise our first amendment rights are slowly and meticulously stripped from us by the refusal of corporations to provide the consumers the means to excercise those rights. But we'll all be happy 'cuase we'll have such nice cheap products to entertain us!

  • Well I have news for them: No consumer will choose to eat shit over cake.

    Most folks out there don't know how to rip MP3s. They either need to get help from a friend, or they need apps bundled with Windows. Otherwise they're just left wondering "what is a ripper?" For them, shit vs. cake is going to be a question of crippled MP3 or full-quality WMA. With the scales so tipped, MP3 is not the cake!

  • So, they'll limit the quality of what can be recorded on a WinXP machine. But they're not talking about limiting the quality of what can be played on a WinXP machine, or, indeed, any OS.

    So, those who are recording MP3's simply don't use Windows XP to do it. Use Windows 98. Use a Mac (which, in its current TV ads, is encouraging people to record music CD's). Use Linux/Solaris/whatever.

    I really don't think that this is going to have a big effect on music piracy here -- I think it will let Microsoft say they tried.


  • by image ( 13487 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @05:13AM (#296333) Homepage
    All the more reason to agressively push for the adoption and penetration of Ogg Vorbis.

    By know, everyone in the know should have checked out the Xiphophorus company homepage [], and taken a look at Ogg [] and Vorbis [].

    If we can create a Napster-like groundswell for an open audio codec such as Vorbis, then it will not matter if Windows XP ships with only Windows Media Audio and the Windows Media Player. The fact is, while WMA is good, it isn't open or free, and and the Windows player isn't as strong as WinAmp or XMMS.

    Free is good. That is why Napster did so well. If the downloadable audio market is saturated by ".ogg" files and flooded with high quality and free audio players, then Ogg Vorbis has a chance of beating those nasty little ".wma"'s.
  • So you're trying to tell everyone that WindowsXP won't play WAV or CDA files anymore? Yeah good fucking logic you've got there. THe majority of audio formats around right now have zero copyright protection as most of them started out for use in sound sampler software. If you're so fucking concerned don't use WindowsXP and stop bitching about it. You're acting like Microsoft is somehow expected to write an operating system for the people by the people, they write an OS to make fucking money and can impliment anything they want into the OS in order to make money. It's called capitalism.
  • Well unfortunately for you Microsoft writes their fucking operating system. They can do whatever they damn fucking please with their software. How come the double standard? Linux zealots cream their pants howling about Microsoft's lack of interoperability yet run either GNOME or KDE? What the FUCK is your fucking problem. Microsoft writes their OS to their specifications as does anyone else who writes software. In this little concept the world calls capitalism, you sell things. Often times you only sell things because your product has scant few extra features than your competition. No one bitches at Ford because their cars won't accept Mopar parts do they?
  • Fuck Netscape, if they can't figure out how to get their product in front of users they DESERVE to go out of business. Shit dude, when Microsoft started packaging IE with Windows people spent the time to download Netscape. That was of course until Netscape decided a quality product was not something they would ship. Users want working software and IE worked when Netscape didn't. What Microsoft does is the same thing every other fucking successful company does. Where do you fucking people get these ideas thato ne corporate entitity is in any way more wholesome than another? Just because AMD is the underdog in the processor market doesn't make them a better corporation. IBM did the same shit Microsoft does now for YEARS and no one really gave a shit. My Ford analogy works just fucking fine because Ford has a monopoly on their niche of the market. I want to use Mopar parts in a mustang god dammit but Ford won't let me. I think I'm going to sue them! You fucking idiots.
  • Compressed and uncompressed media alike are both run through audio out drivers (either direct WAV out or DirectSound). There's nothing in DirectSound output that prohibits the playing of compressed media. As long as I don't use Microsoft's decoder in WindowsXP it doesn't give a flying fuck what music I'm playing.
  • It is, or will become, the GIF of music.

    How prophetic - in fact, Fraunhoefer is already starting to charge creators of encoders. Just because they haven't totally cracked down on it yet doesn't mean that they won't do so in the future, just like Unisys did with GIFs.

    I agree that fragmentation is bad, but I don't see any alternatives at this point. I guess we'll see if using a free format is important enough to people for them to pass up any compression improvements from WMA. I'm not holding out a lot of hope for the non-/. crowd, though.

  • Tesco are the UK's biggest supermarket, you know... :-)


  • by rakjr ( 18074 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @05:32AM (#296353)
    • "Microsoft, for example, plans to severely limit the quality of music that can be recorded as an MP3 file using software built into the next version of its personal-computer operating system, Windows XP, according to the report.""Under Microsoft's new restrictions -- which prevent its built-in software from recording MP3 files at fidelity rates higher than 56 kilobits per second -- MP3 music "sounds like somebody in a phone booth underwater," says P.J. McNealy, an analyst who researches Internet audio issues for Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn. (Existing versions of Microsoft's audio software don't allow consumers to record music as MP3 files of any quality.)"
    This part sounds like an easy thing to overcome. The problem is...
    • "if MS somehow disabled or crippled the ability of other MP3 encoders to work under XP."
    This sounds more like Microsoft's past practices. (1) Microsoft has in the past, for the benefit of its customers, crippled their OS in ways the caused odd failures with their windows product line. Those targeted were DR DOS, Novell DOS, and Borland, to name a few. (2) With Microsoft's current mode of updating, they do not need to ship a crippled XP, they can progressively over time reduce the ability of other MP3 encoders functionality. This would be done as part of their BUG fixes. Try to name a MS patch which has not broken something new. This set of patches will just happen to have a target.
  • by magic ( 19621 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @05:22AM (#296356) Homepage
    Microsoft said its decision not to include built-in support for recording better-sounding MP3 music also avoids it having to pay license fees required by Thomson Multimedia SA and the Fraunhofer Institut, which collect at least US$2.50 from software vendors for each copy of recording software based on their MP3 technology.

    It seems like Microsoft, not the customer is the one trying to slip out of a license :).

    I've never used MS products to record or play MP3's, so I could care less about MS's lack of support.

    Compare all of this to Apple, who just released the best MP3 encoder/ripper/song manager/cd burner program I've ever used, iTunes. Oh yeah, Apple makes their product free to everyone, too. With OSX running both MS Office, apple apps and all of my favorite unix tools, why would I upgrade to Win XP instead of throwing out my PC and getting a G4? Maybe even a Titanium G4 with a GeForce3... :)


  • This is sensationalized, like everything else lately.

    MS Said that 'Media player will not record mp3's at above 56kbps, because MS does not want to pay royalties to Fraunhoffer/whoever...'

    They also mentioned that 'Current recording software seems buggy under WinXP... of *course* it does, with MS changing api's and shit. LOTS of stuff is buggy. Wait for it to finish, and for software to catch up.

    This is no big deal; it just means MS isn't putting it's corporate support behind mp3, and will instead try to push their own medium (they did all along; they just put mp3 support in so people woudl hopefully stop using winamp, because winamp could have taken over the media player market... look how MS came out with skins as well). MS hates to lose any sort of mindshare, even on their little built-in utilities.

    This is not a conspiracy to sabotage the OS into refusing to play mp3... or refusing to record it.

    This is reporters just sensationalizing over nothing, just like the Linus -vs- OS-X fiasco.

  • Microsoft has limited the bitrate at which Windows' built-in recorder will record MP3s (who uses this anyway?).

    Also, there are compatibility issues with some of the other 3rd party rippers right now (no word on which), but very likely these aren't by design, and will be worked around before long.

    Any word on Ogg functionality on XP?
  • Well, not exactly altering the conversion process, they will simply make other encoders crash, so you will be forced to use their encoder, which does exactly what it advertises to do to your content so smile :)
  • Consumers CLEARLY want Mp3. They have invested hundreds and thousands of dollars in MP3 players, for home, office, car, and to stick in their pockets. They have lots of skins and plugins for PC-based players, and hundreds or thousands of files.

    And Microsoft comes along and decides that consumers dont really want MP3; instead, they will want whatever MS decides.

    Can anyone else see how twisted and fucked up that is? IT runs completely counter to the idea of a market - consumer demand isn't driving the market with Microsoft at the helm. Rather, corporate greed is.

    Frankly, I'm not not surprised something like this happened. MS wants to control our digital media, and this is one way to do it. I just hope something comes along to displace this sad announcement.
  • I thought that was just a system of cooperative poor-man's sonar primarily used in a recreational aquatic environment. You mean I gotta pay to play?

    ...Sorry, I couldn't resist.


  • by Shotgun ( 30919 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @05:23AM (#296370)
    Yesterday's interview with Mr. Young. People don't want to run an operating system. They want applications. Keep it up M$. Linux, BSD, continues to grow daily.

  • by AtariDatacenter ( 31657 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @06:00AM (#296374)
    ...has a great quote: "The consumer is going to eat what he's given."

    This is obvious bait, Michael, so I'll take it. A statement, such as the one above, is exactly the kind of thing you'd expect from a monopoly. The customer is going to have to settle with whatever we want? What kind of business practice is that in a normal market?

    The correct answer, Microsoft, is that the consumer will get whatever he demands. This, and the active registration, is further proof that what the consumer wants does not matter to Microsoft. It is what THEY want.

  • The article does NOT say that the rent-a-center version of Windows will not play MP3 files. Neither does it say that it will be fundamentally crippled when it comes to the creation of MP3 files.

    What it does say is that Microsoft will limit the ability of the built-in media creation tools to create MP3 files in favor of their own MWA format.

    In other words it doesn't matter. Anyone wanting to create MP3s will simply use something else.

    But to read the responses that people post, you'd think that XP had an anti-MP3 layer built in to the OS itself preventing both the playback of existing MP3's, as well as causing applications that can create them to crash.

    A conclusion is a foolish thing to jump to.

    If the word .DOC format is any indication, I wouldn't touch WMA with a ten foot pole. Why give M$ yet another way to create incompatibilities and headaches when you try to use someone else's products?

    In the big picture open standards are best, even if the standards are not as good as other standards that are proprietary.

    Lee Reynolds
  • by MadAhab ( 40080 ) <slasher@ahab.cCHEETAHom minus cat> on Thursday April 12, 2001 @06:37AM (#296398) Homepage Journal
    The article also implies that Microsoft has jiggered an API yet again to screw everyone who isn't them. The implication is that the API for reading raw data off a CD-ROM (errorneously written as as "writing" in the article?) has changed. Even the WSJ knew that it was bull when they were told "existing software may need to be 'optimized' for XP". They knew damn well it meant "rescued from a blatant attempt to break it."

    It's not unbelievable, either. What applications need lots of fast, raw, error-corrected access to CD-ROMs? CD rippers, and that's about it. The games market, Real Media, etc, can be coerced into "optimizing" for XP.

    And despite the "gee, whiz, this shoar will help lee-nux" posts, the only people who can rejoice over this are 1) Fraunhofer and 2) Real Media. I bet that 50% of the CDs out there are Real-Jukebox-ripped. Although proprietary and enshitted formats are the default, most people seem to figger it out and get mp3s (which goes to show how much computer illiteracy goes out the window when "free stuff" is the reward).

    Boss of nothin. Big deal.
    Son, go get daddy's hard plastic eyes.

  • by hattig ( 47930 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @08:08AM (#296413) Journal
    Instead they are lining up an initiative to treat their customers as copyright breaking thieves

    Makes me think of a future Linux advert:

    Linux - because you are innocent until proven guilty. (with imagery os happy families watching their holiday videos or whatever)

    Windows - because you are a low life cheating thieving scumball. (with images of business people not being able to copy essential data, "I need this movie NOW! Why won't this machine let me have it?", then images of families not being able to see the home movies with a requestor saying "You are not allowed to copy digital content" "But its OUR content!")


  • by paRcat ( 50146 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @05:13AM (#296416)
    If anyone would care to take a look at the last few paragraphs of the WSJ article, they'd see that this only applies to the MS software. Any other software, while still needing to be optimized for Windows XP, still has the ability to record at whatever bitrate it wants to.

    They are simply trying to make WMA the standard by bundling in recording software that won't record MP3's over a 56K sampling rate.

  • by gotan ( 60103 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @07:19AM (#296433) Homepage
    If MS really manages to "unsupport" MP3 into oblivion it may turn out to be not a good thing at all since the Media Industry will happily go along with this scheme (they want content protection at all costs, even if it means to depend on Microsofts proprietary standard, anyone remember the GIF story?). At first everything will be fine and dandy, until most windows people forgot about MP3 players. So: less/crappy MP3-players -> less MP3 -> less music under Linux (you don't think MS will release a player for Linux, do you?). Then the Media Industry will happily screw the consumers until "fair use" is a fairy tale. Next Microsoft will screw Media Industry and Consumers by demanding license fees for their proprietary standard (see Marcovision) Or just make recording software expensive to rent (why sell it at all ...). Maybe they even sell the players (yeah, they come for free ... you only need to purchase Windows).

    The obvious way to thwart this plan is reverse engineering the Microsoft codec. Then it will be DeCSS all over again. The other way is not to use that new standard. But microsoft doing everything to make it look bad and just stopping short of having it's new OS erase them off the HD on sight is really making it hard to convince Joe User to go on with MP3.
  • by fpepin ( 61704 ) <> on Thursday April 12, 2001 @05:30AM (#296435)
    Look at it people, it's not as if MS was going to make sure that no MP3 are going to be able to play on the Windows XP.

    All they're doing is give a low-quality MP3 encoder with it (as compared to none), and have it be able to encode in their own proprietary format with high quality.

    The current encoders might not work all that well right now with it, but they'll be updated so that they can run with it pretty quickly I think.

    Lazy people who just want to use what is built-in might want to start using the Windows Audio format, but there's not much preventing you from keeping your MP3 around.

    Sure MS wants to push against MP3s, but so far they haven't planned anything drastic with it like banning them from their new OS. Yes, they're using their clout to encourage people not to use it and they'll be pretty successful I think, but people will still have a choice.
  • A registry setting allowing one to go over 56k doesn't exactly comfort me. Once content controls are built and integrated into Microsoft products, the controls are no longer in my hands but in Microsoft's.

    Microsoft can easily, once the basic mechanism is coded and in place, at any time and with any "Windows Update" patch (now automated?) change the underlying DLLs or OS code to reject registry settings above, say, 56k if its in their interest to do so.


  • by iceT ( 68610 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @05:15AM (#296444)
    If they push the format to WMV, then they are DEFINATELY NOT weakening their monopoly. MS has no investment in MP3. They can't control the format, they don't get any revenue from it, and they don't don't own a patent on it.
  • by decipher_saint ( 72686 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @06:40AM (#296449)
    In a stunning statement eariler today, representitves of the juggernaught Microsoft Corporation stated that "To aid in the fight for copyright protection, Windows XP will intermittedly crash, throw exceptions and generally lose track of paging whenever possible in an effort to stop people from interacting with, on any level, coprighted material". This press release confirms an earlier statement that "bugs are now features"...


  • The same could easily be said for Windows XP. Believe it or not Microsoft has got to sell Windows XP. If Windows XP is chuck full of stupid "features" that are actually disincentives to the upgrade then people will stick with what they have.

    *sigh*... no. Windows XP will be adopted for the same reason Windows ME is being adopted: OEM bundling. No one buys OSs on purpose, they buy a computer, and it needs an OS. What they get will be whatever Microsoft wants to give them.

    And, given that XP is NT-based and ME is still basically a DOS patch, maybe old windows users will be essentially forced to upgrade -- if all the new programs come out "WinXP/2000 compatible," then you are stuck if you don't have an NT-based windows.

    I think they've got this one in the bag. D'oh.

  • by donutello ( 88309 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @08:44AM (#296467) Homepage
    How does this crap get moderated up?

    Those specs are for the "Easy PC" - a version of PCs sold to people who don't want to deal with a lot of the stuff a lot of PCs make you deal with today - you know, those same people who like buying fruit-colored cars and computers? There was an article about this on Slashdot a few days ago too. I won't go into the details of why anyone would want to buy a computer like that - this crowd is obviously too narrow-minded to get it - but rest assured that that won't be the only kind of XP Box sold.
  • by BenHmm ( 90784 ) <[moc.yelsremmahneb] [ta] [neb]> on Thursday April 12, 2001 @05:25AM (#296472) Homepage
    They talked about it last week, and all they are going to do is not ship Windows Media Player 8 with an MP3 encoding codec. HOWEVER, it is entirely possible to both play MP3s and install someone else's codec.

    Actually I have a copy of WMP8 and it rocks. Built in CD burning, nice interface, a link to a .NETish database that brings cover art and lyrics down for the CDs you rip (into wma, of course) and the new wma codec sounds v.good indeed at 56k.

    Now, I have a nice mp3 player that supports wma, and by ripping with WMP8 at 56k I can get twice the music in my pocket and it sounds better.

    that's such an evil ploy.

  • by aphor ( 99965 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @05:30AM (#296481) Journal
    1. The music record industry is not a business of producing music.
    2. The record industry is based on the value of the service they *do* provide.
    3. The record industry *distributes* music, and the business is tied up in lucrative *distribution* agreements.
    4. It used to be difficult to distribute music because of the scarcity of high-power radio transmitters and the bulkiness of the recorded music media.
    5. The Internet has made music distribution cheap and easy.
    6. The value of the services provided by the record industry is now diminished.
    7. Producers and artists (some anyway..) will (achingly) slowly abandon the fantasy of getting obscenely rich overnight through big recording/distribution deals. (Ian MacKaye)
    8. Musicians and producers will learn to make money promoting their fanclubs and networking with their fans who will buy product because they would be despondent if the band stopped making songs.
    9. Music like N'Sync will not sell because their fans will not buy when they can download for free.
    10. One-hit-wonders will make less money for big record companies
    11. Big record companies will have to give better deals to artistic productions because their risk is lower after having established a fan base.
    12. Good musicians will make more, but the most popular will prolly make less.
    13. Bad musicians will have to keep their day jobs for sure.
    14. Record company executives will have to take their golden parachutes in droves.
  • by aphor ( 99965 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @05:57AM (#296482) Journal

    Please read Cornell Law School's Antitrust Primer []. It will explain that it is illegal to use dominance in one market, like the PC OS dominance of Microsoft, inorder to influence another market, like the recording and distribution of music. Start posting the *DAMAGES* to consumer choice so we can talk about the monetary value of what they are taking away. Then we can sue them.

  • by Tom7 ( 102298 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @06:44AM (#296487) Homepage Journal
    MP3 is effectively an open standard. It is not truly free in the sense of Ogg Vorbis, but in practice people make encoders and decoders without paying a cent to Fraunhaufer. It is, or will become, the GIF of music.

    If in fact MP3 is under fire from The Man, we don't need more fragmentation in the scene. Concentrate on strengthening the MP3 format. IMO, the risk of (effectively) losing freedom regarding the distribution of music is not worth the small gain in freedom from using a free format.
  • by rediguana ( 104664 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @05:40AM (#296491)

    Ummm, did anyone consider that perhaps MSFT may cut off direct hardware access thereby not allowing any rippers direct access to the CDROM drive. Perhaps not possible with 9x, but it would be with an NT kernel. After all, why does the end user need raw access to the CDROM?

    You would then be forced to go through an API to access a CD. The API itself will do the encoding and then pass on the result. The API would only support those codecs that MSFT allows to be plugged into the architecture. No MP3, no OGG.

    This would fit in very nicely with the plans to have end-to-end encryption in all media devices. It would probably be enough to stop the average end user.

    Of course it may be possible to hack, but I wouldn't want to be doing that in MSFT's house of cards. I'm sure they could set it up so that your system becomes very unstable if you install a hacked API. Oh wait, perhaps they are already doing that ... :)

  • by Contact ( 109819 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @05:06AM (#296498)
    I'd love to know how this is going to be accomplished. Prevent Windows Media Player from playing mp3s / recording over a certain bitrate? Sure. Prevent another mp3 player from doing this? How, exactly?

    All an mp3 ripper does is convert one set of data (uncompressed audio) to another kind of data (compressed audio). I can't see how they can detect this.

    The answer is that Microsoft are saying that they'll limit the quality of recordings made using the built in software, not those made on Windows XP. Use something else to encode / your mp3s, and you're fine.

    I'd mention the fact that this story could have been written more carefully, but that's getting cliched. ;)

  • by game-theory ( 114612 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @05:14AM (#296502)
    The article states you will not be able to use the *built in Microsoft Utility* to record higher than 56k. When was the last time you used any of MS's built in utilities past dialup connection and solitaire?

    They mention many third party apps don't seem to work properly on the current betas/RC's. Again, I expect this to be remedied once XP hits the shelves and a little bit of time passes.

    I think the article is right in that many mainstream users *don't* care which format or utility they use, but I don't think its mainstream users who are going to be ripping/encoding CD's.

    So, basically this article says Microsoft will, in their own applications, favor their own format over a third party format. Wow, I know that surprises the hell out of *me*.
  • by nehril ( 115874 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @05:07AM (#296509)
    Microsoft, for example, plans to severely limit the quality of music that can be recorded as an MP3 file using software built into the next version of its personal-computer operating system, Windows XP, according to the report.

    This looks like the software built into XP (Windows Media Player) will suck for ripping MP3s, but will rock for recording Windows Media Format files. This does NOT affect third party programs like MusicMatch, etc. except for the fact that people may not want to buy or download another music program if XP already has one (think I.E. vs Netscape).

    However if people are already used to the MP3 scene and have invested lots of time creating a collection (and buying portable mp3 players) then this tactic may not work as expected. If Microsoft did start messing with third party software then I would expect that antitrust lawyers would have a field day.

  • by peccary ( 161168 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @05:07AM (#296570)
    How does this make money for Microsoft? I'm not a direct shareholder anymore, but if I were, I would definitely want to hear from the honchos an answer as to why they are weakening their monopoly to fight somone else's war.
  • by Fat Rat Bastard ( 170520 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @05:14AM (#296580) Homepage
    ...using the built in software

    The WSJ article also mentioned how WinXP happens to "break" existing encoders as well (IIRC it's the tweaks to NTFS that accomplished that) so there is *some* creedence to the "Microsoft is trying to squash MP3 with WinXP" angle.

    If you don't have anything nice to say, say it often.

  • by sulli ( 195030 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @05:14AM (#296631) Journal
    Upon further reading and reflection, it seems to me that MS would be collossally stupid to push this. MP3 is a huge "killer app" for PCs today - it's one of the few things pushing users to upgrade their PCs and internet connections. Actively making this experience less useful would seem to further reduce sales at a time that people seem less and less interested in upgrading.

    If I had MS stock, I'd sell it now.

  • by sulli ( 195030 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @05:09AM (#296632) Journal
    Nobody will use this garbage!

    Read the WSJ article, emphasis and comments added:

    Under Microsoft's new restrictions -- which prevent its built-in software from recording MP3 files at fidelity rates higher than 56 kilobits per second -- MP3 music "sounds like somebody in a phone booth underwater," says P.J. McNealy, an analyst who researches Internet audio issues for Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn.

    (Existing versions of Microsoft's audio software don't allow consumers to record music as MP3 files of any quality.)

    [And so nobody uses them!]

    The new restrictions in Windows XP won't prevent other vendors' software applications from recording MP3 music at a higher fidelity, but early testers of beta versions of Windows XP already complain that the most popular MP3 recording applications -- which compete with Microsoft's format -- don't seem to function properly

    [Maybe because MS is using its typical anticompetitive dirty tricks?]

    apparently because of changes Microsoft made to how data are written on CD-ROMs under Windows XP. Microsoft says that while other software vendors' products may not be "optimized" to run with Windows XP, those products should run acceptably with the operating system.

    Whoever at MS thinks Joe User will stick to 56kbp is smoking crack. Everyone will simply use Winamp or one of the hundreds of other MP3 tools. If MS wants to make sure nobody uses its software, this is a great way to do it!

    (Compare Apple, whose excellent iTunes [] is user-friendly and MP3 only.)

  • by grammar nazi ( 197303 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @05:15AM (#296636) Journal
    Under Microsoft's new restrictions -- which prevent its built-in software from recording MP3 files at fidelity rates higher than 56 kilobits per second -- MP3 music "sounds like somebody in a phone booth underwater," says P.J. McNealy, an analyst who researches Internet audio issues for Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn. (Existing versions of Microsoft's audio software don't allow consumers to record music as MP3 files of any quality.)
    I guess it doesn't count as using market share in one area as leverage to gain market share in the other area. Since the Fraunhofer Institut is not a large corporation and it isn't a US National organization, I'd say that it would have little chance in hell of fighting MS in court. MS could say that the 'German company is un-american and trying to stifle american innovation'.

    If Fraunhofer were a US National company, then I'm sure that the anti-trust laws would prevent this type of behavior. Especially if MS somehow disabled or crippled the ability of other MP3 encoders to work under XP.

  • by micromoog ( 206608 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @05:16AM (#296653)
    The Reuters article seems to blow things out of proportion a bit. Here is an article from C|NET [] explaining the technical details of the new Windows Media Player copy protection scheme . . . it's pretty scary, but doesn't affect MP3's at all.

    The only new information in this Reuter's article is that the audio recorder built in to XP will only allow the recording of low-quality MP3s. You can still use whatever you want to rip your CDs.

    True, Microsoft is trying to guide users away from the MP3 format, which is despicable, but this isn't some heavy-handed move to ban MP3s from XP altogether.

    By the way, here's another story from [] that reports things very differently . . . according to this one, Microsoft has not yet decided (as of March 28) whether to include MP3 encoding abilities in Media Player.

  • by Mr_Silver ( 213637 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @06:28AM (#296665)
    Too many people are missing the point here. Whatever Microsoft does invariably becomes the de facto standard whether it is or it isn't. Why do you think that its seen as a major problem if Windows doesn't support some sort of standard? They've already said they won't support Bluetooth in the immediate future. This is bad for bluetooth because suddenly the enormous number of people who use Windows won't be using that. Sure it'll come in a later release, but what if it didn't?

    Putting crappy encoding rates into Windows is a bad thing. It'll also probably work. Why? Because most users don't download alternatives. Whats the most used telnet client in the world? Windows Telnet. Its crap. Whats the most used web browser? Internet Explorer. It used to be crap. Why? Because they were in with the windows package from the beginning.

    I remember when IE sucked, but people still used it over Netscape because downloading and installing Netscape was a hassle. People didn't want to do it. People didn't know they could do it.

    Its all very well running around and saying "Well I'll just download a better program". Great, but the majority of people won't. They'll use what they have and if they are gently persuaded to use something else then they will.

    So yes, this is going to be a problem. The savvy people will download and use something else. Those that aren't so savvy (of which there are a hell of a lot more) will use what they are given.

    If what they are given encourages them to use something else that gives a better result, then they'll do that.


  • by update() ( 217397 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @06:58AM (#296676) Homepage
    Here's the crucial quote:

    Under Microsoft's new restrictions -- which prevent its built-in software from recording MP3 files at fidelity rates higher than 56 kilobits per second -- MP3 music "sounds like somebody in a phone booth underwater," says P.J. McNealy, an analyst who researches Internet audio issues for Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn. (Existing versions of Microsoft's audio software don't allow consumers to record music as MP3 files of any quality.)

    Actually, a less Slashdot-ish spin on this might be "Microsoft to add support for MP3 encoding to Windows XP". (Of course, then Taco could weigh in with an article on how that is uncompetitive bundling and the DOJ should step in to save LAME.)

    Unsettling MOTD at my ISP.

  • by Auckerman ( 223266 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @12:59PM (#296691)
    "Widen your definition to everyone in the market and not just MS and the consumers. The content providers want this protection"

    So what you are saying is: If the company that controls 90% of the desktop computers wants to team up with the RIAA and make it impossible to copy songs the the comsumer buys, thereby making it impossible in the future to buy new albums that can't be copied for legimate fair uses, thats okay cause its "market forces".

    Hogwash, utter hogwash. Market forces are about the consumer. That is the whole point of a free economy. That is why monolopies should NOT exist. When we allow one company to control 90% of home computers, it thinks bullshit like this is okay, and consumers just have to eat that dog food if they want to buy music (which eventually, they will if this goes unchecked). I'm sorry. I don't like monolopies. I especially don't like monolopies destroying fair-use in concert with record companies.

  • by Auckerman ( 223266 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @07:14AM (#296692)
    Not everyone uses Windows. I know its hard to beleive. In fact some of us have NEVER used Windows for anything other than checking e-mail in a public library. Your nice, small, perfectly sounding *.wma files are totally useless to me for the following reasons.

    1. They don't work in MacOS X

    2. They don't work in BeOS (x86)

    3. They obviously encode very slowly ("PIII/700 laptop about 3x real time", geesh kinda slow, my 266 encodes mp3s (160) at 2.5X).

    4. What happens when someone cracks the "copy protection" in the WMA format? Is MS gonna change it without regard to compatibility?

    5. Even if I could use those files (meaning had Windows), I couldn't share them with anyone in my family, much less listen to them on any portable player.

    6. Last but not least, from what I have seen of WMP (as limited as that is) in WinME, it blows nutz UI wise, is slow on anything other than a 400P2, and wastes LOTS of valueable screen space by default.

  • by Auckerman ( 223266 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @09:23AM (#296693)
    Uhh, I'm trying not to be a troll but who cares if you can't use a certain format?

    You are a troll, but thats okay. Trolling can be a fun experience. Let me give it a try. ;)

    "I can't enjoy certain anime because I don't read nor understand Japanese.

    You don't have a right to it.

    Nor did I say I did. Don't read into a statement what is not there, makes you look like a reactionary fool.

    "You post sounds like 'I want it all now! And I blame MS for it and not market forces or technology'."

    "Market forces", I damn near cracked a rib reading this. Do you honestly think consumers WANT copy protections? Do you honestly think consumers want old formats to be "updated" as often as possible so people with new computers have more trouble sending files to people with older computers? You sound like the type of person who would say IE is more popular than Netscape because it is "better' (which, btw, runs totally against what MS planners thought). I really just don't understand how people can honest believe MS is where it is at because it is the "best". I really don't understand what "market forces" are at play other than "monolopistic bundling" when MS uses its ownership of Windows to try to kill a file format. People use what came with Windows. Most don't trust or even understand downloading enough to seek alternate players.

    The ONLY reason MS wants to add copy protection to Windows is so they can get part of the theoritcal money people will pay to download music. The software industry has gone unchecked for too long. Most of the industry is consumer unfriendly, writes buggy code, and is trying to redifine what fair use is. I don't want to tell my children about the good ole days when we were actually able to buy music in a unencrypted form, make a copy for the car, a copy for the office, and loan it to friends to listen to. But, at this rate I will, because everything will be "encrypted" (even if its only ROT 26), the DCMA will stop people from breaking that encryption even if they want to merely want to play their files in their car. Not only that, if in the highly likely event that WindowsXPv12 (2010 release,build 5million) dies and you have to reinstall, your computer might suddenly think all those files you have backed up are pirated and refuse to use them (cause Windows is fucking STUPID and requires a FORMAT to reinstall). If the OS can identify your computer uniquely and .NET plays out, every time you visit, MS knows.

    Sounds like a shitty idea, if you ask me. I'll stick to formats that don't have any level of prevention in them. XP might look harmless now, but don't think this is nothing more than a baby step towards destroying fair use.

  • by virg_mattes ( 230616 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @06:30AM (#296709)
    > Relavent quote: The new restrictions in Windows
    > XP won't prevent other vendors' software
    > applications from recording MP3 music at a
    > higher fidelity.

    Well, another relevant quote:

    > The new restrictions in Windows XP won't prevent
    > other vendors' software applications from recording
    > MP3 music at a higher fidelity, but early testers
    > of beta versions of Windows XP already complain that the
    > most popular MP3 recording applications -- which compete
    > with Microsoft's format -- don't seem to function
    > properly, apparently because of changes Microsoft
    > made to how data are written on CD-ROMs under Windows XP.

    Telling, no?

  • Uh...anyone heard of this [] little standard for audio?

    I must say, I'm not surprised. Not at all. USB 2, MP3...what's next? Hard drives?

    Mr. Gates: "Well, people will just have to learn to live without HD support in Windows 2010. Why don't they use .NET? All their data will be protected from loss, corruption and theft - Microsoft servers are very secure and reliable. Who doesn't have broadband access these days?"

    *chill running down spine*
  • by LordArathres ( 244483 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @06:25AM (#296735) Homepage
    Absolutley. Windows XP is going to be an even bigger flop than 2000 was. Napster had some 70 Million plus users. The fact that these people had at least the know how to and understanding of MP3 files to realize how cool they are. Who is MS targetting with XP? Servers...No. Regular users who at least have a clue...No. Power users...No. The only people left are those who dont know a lot about computers and are just getting into them. I guess. But this group gets smaller and smaller daily. Soon, MS wont have anyone left to buy their OS's. I mean Gamers dont use ME, they use 98SE which came out more than 2 years ago. Linux and the BSD's are gaining the server market, and the power user market.

    The best thing about computers is the freedom to do anything you please with them. Building copyrights into the OS will quickly make people turn to something else. Microsoft's days are being quickly numbered.


    I love my iBook. I use it to run Linux!
  • by ryanvm ( 247662 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @06:20AM (#296737)
    The WSJ article also mentioned how WinXP happens to "break" existing encoders as well (IIRC it's the tweaks to NTFS that accomplished that) so there is *some* creedence to the "Microsoft is trying to squash MP3 with WinXP" angle.

    That's pure bullshit. XP could possibly break rippers because there are fairly low-level system calls being used, but the notion that it breaks encoders is ridiculous. NTFS tweaks wouldn't harm an encoder because they use standard file writing system calls. Encoders read a file, work some data manipulation, and write the results. To break any part of the reading or writing process would break a lot of software.

    I'd wager that XP breaks the current generation of rippers and the tech "authorities" at WSJ just got a little confused.

  • by jeff13 ( 255285 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @05:04AM (#296747) Homepage

    That's right, only giant coporations are allowed to distribute culture.

    Back off Napster, or Billy Gates will eat your children.
  • by nanojath ( 265940 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @07:15AM (#296773) Homepage Journal
    I don't think there's been more obvious and open challenge to the Open Source community. MP3 should disappear; it's proprietary. But if Microsoft is allowed to control the standard format for digital audio playback then that's it: the world of commercial music is going to end up looking like the world of commercial software and that's an ugly, ugly picture. Two words: Fair Use. Do you know what this means? Of course, but for those who just fell off the truck, you have a legal, constitutionally guarenteed, Supreme-Court approved right to make copies of copyrighted materials YOU ALREADY OWN for personal use. If I own the CD I have the right to tape it, burn it to a new CD, to rip it to my hard drive, to make MP3s from that, all for my personal convenience. I have the right to stream it on the intertnet so I can listen to it at work. I can't legally trade, distribute or sell it. But I can use that copyrighted information any way I want to, once I buy an original. The publishing community doesn't have the political juice to overturn fair use so they're joining forced with M$ to simply make it technologically impossible. The big lie is that we need any more laws due to the digital revolution. Napster proves that: the average consumer will always need some sort of easy, accessible method to get their product. As soon as any illegal distribution network becomes big enough to make a dent in the publishing/recording industry's massive coffers, they'll get shut down. Piracy and bootlegs will always exist: fighting those who illegally (and despicably, from my point of view as a writer and songwriter) make personal profit from piracy is part of maintaining intellectual property laws. What is really the issue is the desire of the publishing/recording industry to change the paradigm from a pay for rights (you buy copyrighted material and receive all attendant fair use rights - essentially unlimited personal playback rights) to a pay to play model where you end up paying EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU LISTEN/READ/VIEW. It's a shaft job on the consumer. A total greed power play. And this is the beginning. I've said it once, twice, I'll say it a thousand times if I have to: There is only one way out and that is by artists cooperating with the open source community to forge a new model of distribution. We don't NEED the publishing/recording industry any more: If you have what it takes you will get 10X as rich selling yourself even if you take no steps to avoid piracy. Yeah, Yeah, I'm crazy (and long winded too). Interested? Get in on the ground floor - write at the e-mail above or to PO 3171 Minneapolis MN 55403 and find out what the REAL score is.
  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @07:18AM (#296792) Homepage

    ripping with WMP8 at 56k I can get twice the music in my pocket and it sounds better

    Which will be a great comfort when in six months you update, hit rip, and run into the popup saying "Microsoft regrets that due to persisent abuse of fair use laws by evil commie child molesting pirates, the copyright owner of this track has instructed us to levy a token licensing charge on this copy. Searching Microsoft Passport for your credit card number. Found. Purchased. Click OK to continue, or Cancel to confirm that you are a child molesting communist thief (no refunds)."

    Just because it costs nothing doesn't mean you won't have to pay.

I've got a bad feeling about this.