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Microsoft

DVD Player Chipsets To Support Windows Media Files 407

An Anonymous Coward writes: "According to this article in EETimes, Microsoft previewed its next generation Windows Media technology, and said that chipset makers that account for 90% of home DVD players will be including the technology in their upcoming chipsets. I hope the various courts looking into Microsoft's monopoly examine this closely, there is a lot of potential for Microsoft to extend its monopoly here. The next logical step would be for them to pay movie studios to produce Windows Media format movies that are available before or cost less than regular DVD format, that is, if they are made available in regular DVD format at all! This would also be a neat way for studios to force us all to upgrade our existing DVD players use the now-cracked CSS." Ton van der Liet points out this article on ZDNet, writing: "Microsoft touts the advantages of Windows Media, such as longer playback. Wasn't MPEG-4 supposed to do this? And aren't the newest Windows Media codecs based on a draft of the MPEG-4 standard?"
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DVD Player Chipsets To Support Windows Media Files

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  • by microbob ( 29155 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @10:06AM (#2692933)
    I DO NOT want WMP technology in my DVD player...

    I'll refuse to buy one that includes.

    You DVD manufactures listening to me? I *know* you read slashdot.
    • by fallen1 ( 230220 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @10:18AM (#2692993) Homepage
      I fully agree. Most people here on /. tend to get up in arms about one thing or another and a good bit of us do something about it. Well, now is the time for a fair majority of us to really do something and let the manufacturers know WITH YOUR DOLLARS. Write to any company who plans to use WMP technology in their machines and let them know you will not be buying their products - and why. Also mention the fact that many people in your circle will also not be buying and then get those people to write the company as well. When they see enough dollar signs with "will not be buying" attached they will listen. Microsoft be damned.. I don't live in a M$ world, nor do I want to.

      Before I get flamed - I'm not totally against Microsoft as I use some of their products in my daily life, I'm just getting really tired of them trying to "control all that you see and hear" to borrow a phrase.

    • boycotting is great from an individual, moral point of view but think about the people who make DVD's and their players. Who's their market? Fact of the matter is that video codecs and software monopolies go waaaay over the head of the average joe - can you really see the herds of western civilisation getting riled at this?

      so boycott it, and I and half of slashdot will do the same until they've forgotten about it (should take about a week going by past experience) and we can all feel good but its not going to make a blind bit of difference.

      sorry to play the pessimist
    • would you WMP in a house,
      would you WMP with a mounse?
      ...
      I would not buy them in the rain,
      I would not buy them on a train,
      I would not could not with a mouse,
      I would not could not with in a house,

      I DO NOT want WMP technology in my DVD player... sam I am!
  • I'm pleased... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Brad Wilson ( 462844 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @10:09AM (#2692944) Homepage
    ...because I presume this means I get to keep my music in WMA format now to playback on my DVD player. :)

    Now, honestly, you don't think the studios are going to start producing WMV versions of movies instead of standard MPEG-2, do you, just because some of the players will be able to do it? There's just too much market penatration right now for the MPEG-2 based players. Look at how few and far between movies are with DTS (and most of them have simultaneous DD), even though it's present in many receivers and DVD players.

    I expect this means that people will be able to burn CD-Rs with WMA and WMV format media and play them on their DVD player. From where I'm standing, that's a good thing, not a bad thing. One wonders why Apple wasn't jumping right into this kind of thing to make sure QuickTime was playable there, too...
    • Re:I'm pleased... (Score:2, Informative)

      by MtViewGuy ( 197597 )
      If I remember reading correctly, some months ago someone actually compared the sound quality of MP3, Ogg Vorbis and Windows Media Audio formats. And WMA won going away, with most reviewers saying it was the closest to the original in sound quality.

      It'll be interesting to see if Ogg Vorbis comes up with a better codec to compete against the WMA 8 format.
      • by 32xts ( 163190 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @10:29AM (#2693049) Homepage
        It'll be interesting to see if Ogg Vorbis comes up with a better codec to compete against the WMA 8 format.
        Maybe, maybe not. You can, however, rest assured that they will come up with a sillier name.
      • Re:I'm pleased... (Score:5, Informative)

        by jonathan_ingram ( 30440 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @11:36AM (#2693322) Homepage
        There was one recent newspaper test, done very badly, comparing files encoded at different bitrates, non-blind, which said WMA was best. This was about as far from scientific as it is possible for an 'objective' test to be. Luckily, there is a properly organised test underway to compare WMA, MPC, AAC, MP3 and Ogg at 128kpbs (which is still a very popular bitrate). To participate, go to
        http://ff123.net/128test/instruct.html [ff123.net]

        This test is actually being analysed properly, using the insights gained from his previous 128kbps test, whose results you can find here [ff123.net]). You can see the preliminary results here: http://ff123.net/128test/interim.html. In particular, look at the results of the last of the three test files. With overall 95% confidence we can say that on this test clip: [ff123.net]
        mpc is better than xing
        ogg is better than xing
        lame is better than xing
        aac is better than xing
        mpc is better than wma8
        ogg is better than wma8
        lame is better than wma8
        aac is better than wma8

        Aside from this, listening tests have previously shown that WMA8 is better than WMA7 at the low end (sub 64kpbs), at the expense of being worse at the middle to high end (112kpbs upwards). For listening to music on anything that costs more than $10, you would do best to stay away from WMA (and, looking at the other results on the page I previously mentioned, from Xing encoded MP3s as well...).

    • Re:I'm pleased... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tiroth ( 95112 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @11:08AM (#2693188) Homepage
      Actually, DVDs are /required/ to have a Dolby Digital or PCM track. Having additional audio formats (i.e. DTS) is optional.
    • If you can play files burnered on a cd-player, does this mean the RIAA will get involved? Maybe they'll start screaming piracy concerns and persuade the dvd makes to avoid the situation or face a lawsuit.

      Well, I can dream can't I?
    • I'm no expert, but I believe MS did this to get Windows consumers to use their "movie editting" product. I don't think it is intended to be used by the major studios. Seen in this light, MS avoids the problems of burning DVDs that currently plague Apple's DVD - playback on consumer devices.


      MS neatly avoids having to support MPEG-4 and the battling standards to determine which DVD recordable format wins. They win regardless since Windows users will be using WMP formats, not any kind of open standard format such as MPEG 4.


      As for Apple and Real licsensing QuickTime and Real respectively, it doesn't really matter. QuickTime is the basis of MPEG-4 and Apple is expected to have the next version of QuickTime support MPEG-4, beating many competitor's to the punch. Real recently said they'd support MPEG-4.


      Nope, I think MPEG-4 will be the default DVD recording format in the near future. MS neatly avoids the implmentation problem by going to the manufacturers. Its a great business move to prevent Windows users from having to watch their home movies on their computers, but the real impact probably won't be known until DVD recorders are widespread.

  • Who cares? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by C. Mattix ( 32747 ) <cmattix@noSpAm.gmail.com> on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @10:10AM (#2692947) Homepage
    So DVDs will have WMA support. Good. More people will buy them and use them. Don't say that "they suck because the do WMA," start complaining if they ONLY do WMA. I think it is good if a DVD player does more, just more options. Imagine one that could do MP*, WMA, avi, vcd, etc, etc. ....
    That woudl be a good thing.
    • Re:Who cares? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pete-classic ( 75983 ) <hutnick@gmail.com> on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @10:25AM (#2693024) Homepage Journal
      I think that it will be much too late to complain when they "ONLY do WMA" (I presume you also mean WMV).

      The complaint isn't about players supporting additional formats, or about them "suck"ing because they support WMA. It is that this smacks of another attempt by MS to take over a new chunk of the market of digital stuff. Maybe they are just trying to "participate" in it, but it is naive to think that they are going to suddenly behave differently in this market than they have in others.

      This is something like the other file formats (.doc, .ppt, etc) situation. In a way it is worse, because MS has a good chance of blocking compatible systems by legal action with the audio and video formats.

      To answer your question directly, I care.

      Oh, and VCD is an MP* format. (In exactly the same way that DVD is an MP* format. Namely, there is a separate standard for how the files are managed, but the data files are MPEG.)

      -Peter
    • Re:Who cares? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by nsanit ( 153392 )
      I just wonder if they've put something in the 'agreement' about other media formats? I know many of you are saying M$ is just positioning for the future, and you may be correct. On the other hand, it wouldnt surprise me to see some exclusivity (sp) clause in the WMA license agreement.

      Many DVD players now supprt MP3 media. It would not surprised if M$ would say that WMA can only exist in players that do not support MP3. I say this because havent they developed their own, new, 'better' media format to compete with/displace MP3?

      I'm just skeptical and trust that company as far as I can throw Bill Gate's net worth in a single roll of small bills.

      • They'll probably just give better prices to those players that only include WMA. The explicit exclusion of others will probably wait a few years... but XP may cease to recognize the file type, or use it for something else. So if a player can handle WMA, then that may be all that gets used. (Auto updates of XP could remove any competing players. It's in the contract [or at least in the published beta of the contract].)

        After they have sufficient penetration, they just increase the price differential until effectively everything is WMA only. Any agreements to not create MP3 players would probably be verbal only (and along the lines of "You're such a great customer that why don't we give you this special price discount. We really like the way that you have kept your WMA players free of interference from extraneous software. It makes things so much more efficient." This would probably allow them to get off without penalty even if the agreement came to light).
    • Ok. This is how it will work out.

      First migrate WMF into players. After a while, pressure/entice movie studios to release in WMF format (better copy protection, whatever). When critical mass is obtained on WMF encoded films, enter clauses into WMF contracts that to license WMF, the player must not be able to play any format compatible with anything but Windows, nor interoperate with anything but Windows (sole exception being MPEG-2). Then phase out MPEG-2 capabilities, also through contracts preventing shipping of chips and/or players capable of anything but WMF.

      After critical mass is reached they wont have a choice; either cater to 70-80 percent of the market which is by then WMF, or you dont get to sell WMF capability at all. Which vendor do you think is gonna care about a few thousand complaining customers when their alternative is that their players wont be able to play the format that most films get released in at that point?

      The customers or people with older dvds... well, they are just gonna have to buy their stuff again (if it's buyable by then, probably it will all be pay-per-view).

      By the time players start going Only-WMF it will be far too late to change anything. At that point the only recourse will be ten to twenty years of trustbusting court litigation... if even that will change anything.
  • eh (Score:2, Funny)

    by mrphrtq ( 35942 )
    When MS starts pushing to get their media formats implemented into hardware, it won't have as much opportunity to change. With the pace of video codecs these days, your DVD player will probably be obsolete by the time you get it home.

    • If DVD players include WMV formats, then they could very start using flashable ROMs or some other method of updating codecs by the end user. If this happens, then DVD players could become much more powerful by adding support for the latest greatest technologies.
      • What if DVD players had fully programmable CPUs, as well as a few megs of RAM usable by the DVD? Then each CD could contain its own codecs and playback software. This would be great for studios because they could painlessly introduce new copy protection features (even if the new copy protection wasn'ttougher than CSS, just the myriad of different schemes would foil pirates to some extent). Also, they could continually improve video quality as well, which would be appealing to customers who aren't aware of/concerned about copy protection and Microsoft domination (aka, 99% of all consumers).

        Probably the only thing preventing this would be the fact that DVD video quality is more than good enough for consumers, so there's consumer appeal to slightly-increasing video quality due to upgraded codecs. Also, if you think there's DVD/DVD player compatibility problems now... it would probably be even more insane if things went this way.
  • by Visoblast ( 15851 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @10:11AM (#2692959) Homepage
    MPEG-4, and Windows Media may well do great with low bit rate video, but that means it is more compressed. MPEG-2 does very well with higher bit rates and is designed for high quality video, not reasonable quality at a low data rate.

    Any new format to replace DVD will likely have to deal with HDTV, a high bit rate high resolution video format. What MS is doing is positioning themelves to supply that new format; they aren't really trying to replace DVD. That'll put them in control of a very lucritive format for decades.
    • The mpeg2 format allows you to add new data to the stream as you go. Most players will simply ignore this new data, but the players that are hdtv compatible will use it to make the image bigger. I saw this working in person 2 years ago. A new format isn't going to replace mpeg2.

      -Benjamin
  • DOA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @10:12AM (#2692964) Homepage
    I can't see this replacing MPEG-2 in DVD players. DVD players are reaching wide market penetration in many countries. That means that there is a huge installed base that is not compatible with these new technologies. The producers and distributors are not going to want to deal with an incompatible media format that increases their production and inventory costs.
    • Re:DOA (Score:2, Interesting)

      by alcmena ( 312085 )
      Also, if they change format away from DVD so soon after it was released, consumers will backlash. It took years for DVD to finally be accepted, and only recently has become cheap enough for the average home user. DVD is past the infant stage, and the industry will have a very hard time displacing it anytime soon.
  • buy the others (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nanojath ( 265940 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @10:15AM (#2692981) Homepage Journal
    As I read this there will still be 10% of commercial players that will not be running Microsoft software as if it were a public standard. Buy these DVD players.


    Hey Slashdot editors, why not make yourselves useful for a change and start tracking and informing us of the producers that resist assimilation, so we can support them in the only meaningful way there is, with our wallets, and keep them viable?

  • by alen ( 225700 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @10:18AM (#2692996)
    ZDNet [zdnet.com] had the story yesterday. The next version of MS windows media player is scodenamed Corona. It's double the DVD quality and 5.1 sound.
    • by nsanit ( 153392 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @11:13AM (#2693218) Homepage
      It's double the DVD quality and 5.1 sound.

      You only get 5.1 sound if the movie was recorded that way, and most DVD's (at least in my collection) are already 5.1 sound (assuming the movie was recorded with the eoncoding).

      A new media format alone cannot add sound that's not in the recording. Anyone can remaster the sound track and add the other channels with current media formats.

      Better quality? I dont see how it's possible to get better picture quality with same antiquated technology that is inside most people's TV.

      Everyday I think M$ is turning out to be more analageous (sp) to Taco Bell in the movie Demolition Man.

    • From the article: In particular, the updated video format is capable of quality double that of DVDs while taking up half the space, Fester said.

      I've always wondered, how do they measure "double the quality"? Is there a heuristic comparison they can run on the decompressed and original images to determine quality loss? (I say heuristic because perceived quality is most definitely not the same thing as information loss -- which is the whole basis behind the psychoacoustic models used for MP3s. Do they use similar things for video?) Can they say, "this new codec is only 1.8 times the quality of the old one"? Or is there some guy watching the video who goes, "that looks twice as good!"?

      Further, wouldn't twice the quality in half the space be translatable to some single measure, such as four times the quality in the same space, or equal quality in one quarter the space?

      Sounds like marketing crap to me, but I could be wrong.

      -Puk
  • Erosion (Score:4, Interesting)

    by squaretorus ( 459130 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @10:20AM (#2693002) Homepage Journal
    The entire point of DVD region encoding is to restrict the availability of these products to allow the producer to sell where they want, for the price they want.

    It hasn't worked. It broke. Damn!

    This may give them an out. Just start to release to the new standard gradually - dual release (with extra 'extras') to start, then early release, then exclusive release. DVD players are cheap - a lot of people on this site would upgrade if a 20 DVD Star Wars set came out in the new format - you think Bill couldn't persuad George?? "HOW many zeros???"

    I don't think this is the format that will do it - but in the next 2 or 3 years a new DVD format will come along with WAY tougher restrictions.

    Actually. I think 10-view DVDs will be the next big thing from the studios. They'll sell those babies for $5-10 and you'll only be able to play them 10 times (they put a film on the disk which goes opaque in the laser). Then its useless. They'll push them through rental shops to start with.
    • No, they are looking even further then that. They want to be able to stream you the data over your boadband connection. You don't even get to have a disk! This simply gives them more power. When I first heard this at the conference I couldn't believe my ears that they would do that, but hey!
    • Actually. I think 10-view DVDs will be the next big thing from the studios. They'll sell those babies for $5-10 and you'll only be able to play them 10 times (they put a film on the disk which goes opaque in the laser). Then its useless. They'll push them through rental shops to start with.

      Yeah, and then they could make it only work for 48 hours. I wonder what they could call it? Maybe DIVX? [fightdivx.com]

    • Re:Erosion (Score:2, Insightful)

      There will NOT be a new DVD format in the next couple of years. If we look at history, the typical lifespan of a consumer A/V media format is on the order of 20 years or more (there's still a respectable market for VHS today, and it's been consumer-grade technology since I was born).

      The DVD format has only been on the market for about 4 years. Don't expect any 'super-DVD' formats to gain any popularity at all until maybe 2015 or so.

      As for your limited-viewing degrading DVD concept, you do remember the Circuit City DivX debacle, don't you?
      • As for your limited-viewing degrading DVD concept, you do remember the Circuit City DivX debacle, don't you?
        I think the fact he doesn't remember it is more telling. You know something has failed thoroughly when no one even remembers that it failed...
      • Those who don't remember history are doomed to repeat it.

        Screw limited viewing, if they ever get pay per play movies on cable, that's the only way you could get this sort of limited view on your home box.
      • "you do remember the Circuit City DivX debacle, don't you?"

        I do. I think what buggered them was the need to open an account, and the fact it was annoying to have a different format. And a lack of wholesale support from the major studios.

        But I think a system which PHYSICALLY stops you watching a disk, doesn't involve registration, and just kinda happens without you noticing for a year in the hire shops is FAR more likely to succeed.

        You don't need different hardware, software, or anything to watch a physically degrading DVD. This alone, fo me, makes them a more attractive option to the studios.

        For the Video hire shops this is great news. You log onto blockbuster.com, pick a disk - they mail you a 5, or even a 2 view, degradable disk. You never have to return it. They just buy enough to ship em out - they're disposable! Immediately removes half of the man-hours required to handle the media! THATS the back door these little fuckers will enter by!
    • The entire point of DVD region encoding is to restrict the availability of these products to allow the producer to sell where they want, for the price they want.

      It's to some extent an attempt to perpetuate the situation existing with video tape. But crafted more towards maximisation of publisher profits than whatever hack engineers came up with 40 odd years ago to transmit colour TV whilst maintaining compatability with monochrome systems which existed at the time.

      Actually. I think 10-view DVDs will be the next big thing from the studios. They'll sell those babies for $5-10 and you'll only be able to play them 10 times (they put a film on the disk which goes opaque in the laser). Then its useless. They'll push them through rental shops to start with.

      Except to be workable the rental outlet would probably need to be able to produce these on site. (Thus have some non degradable copies.)
      Let alone that this comes back to the whole DRM myth. Which is that if you can either have a media which can be watched/listened to xor one which cannot be copied. At some point or other you need to present the data into a form usable by human senses, at which point it can be captured and copied.
  • Oh well... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Xenopax ( 238094 ) <xenopax@@@cesmail...net> on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @10:20AM (#2693003) Journal
    I hope the various courts looking into Microsoft's monopoly examine this closely, there is a lot of potential for Microsoft to extend its monopoly here.

    Yes, I'm sure they'll hear about this, but will they care, no. The problem here is the focus of the anti-trust suits focus on the Windows OS and abusing that monopoly. Microsoft isn't extending themselves into the DVD market (and the console market) by abusing they're monopoly position in the OS market. Remember, MS is allowed to compete in as many markets as it likes, as long as they compete in a fair (and I use the word loosely) manner, and they don't gain a position in that market due to a monopolistic position in another market.
    • Re:Oh well... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Junta ( 36770 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @11:11AM (#2693211)
      But it is an issue. It's not really fairly competing, it is leveraging their OS monopoly to gain ground in other areas. Just like they used Windows as leverage for IE, and that was bad. They have more subtly leveraged their OS monopoly to get their media player on every desktop. It seemed harmless at first, but now they are managing to push the more proprietery .wm* formats through their bundled encoder (along with digital rights managemnt). Now they feel that they have sufficiently established their .wm* formats that they can use it as leverage to break into the DVD market.
      Same is true of the X-Box. For example, their most hyped game is Halo, right? Halo started as a game for Windows, but MS somehow convinced the developers to both develop for X-Box and delay work on a Windows release so that they could sell more X-Boxes. Again, leveraging their monopoly unfairly.
      On the plus side, I think that neither X-Box nor this DVD idea will see much market penetration. Current wave of DVD players are too prolific for the publishers to avoid. While it may be a standard feature for many future DVD players, I doubt you'll be going to the store to pick up .wmv movies on disc any time soon. With X-Box, the hardware is impressive, but the games are really lame for the most part. As we saw with the Dreamcast, even with great hardware you need great titles, which Nintendo and Sony have. Incidentally, I noticed that a lot of Dreamcast games are being continued on the X-Box, is this an omen? :) Besides the games, a lot of people I talk to have grown to distrust MS product quality due to so many BSODs. For their computers, MS is a necessary evil, but they will not purchase Microsoft stuff if they don't feel they have to, as is the case with desktop PCs.
      • Same is true of the X-Box. For example, their most hyped game is Halo, right? Halo started as a game for Windows, but MS somehow convinced the developers to both develop for X-Box and delay work on a Windows release so that they could sell more X-Boxes. Again, leveraging their monopoly unfairly.

        They convinced Bungie by buying them out. They didn't leverage their monopoly status, just their very large sums of cash on hand.
      • Re:Oh well... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by listen ( 20464 )
        Erm... ever played on a dreamcast? It had easily the best line up of games for the two years it existed.
        What the dreamcast showed is that you have to have good marketing, and not look like a company that is going to collapse in a few years. From what I've seen, MS don't match that pattern. Sad but true.
    • Re:Oh well... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tiroth ( 95112 )
      Microsoft isn't extending themselves into the DVD market (and the console market) by abusing they're monopoly position in the OS market.

      That will be MS's argument, but is it true? MS is leveraging their existing operating system in the Xbox because they tout the development tools already available to target the software/hardware. They are also leveraging the fact that it is easier to port a Windows PC game to Xbox (and vica versa) because the Xbox is basically a specialized...Windows PC!

      The same scenario occurs with DVDs, albeit more arguably. MS attracts support for their codecs because they are already implemented in their OS...distributers can release a DVD that plays in every Windows system with no new software. In reverse, WMA format movies enhance the Windows monopoly because the proprietary format cannot be used in other operating systems.
      • "They are also leveraging the fact that it is easier to port a Windows PC game to Xbox (and vica versa) because the Xbox is basically a specialized...Windows PC! "

        I don't think you quite understand what leveraging means, and how it is bad.

        Leveraging a companies ability to more efficiently create something, is not what the Sherman anti-trust law was about. Efficiency in production and lower expenses are pro-consumer.

        When they speak of leveraging, it means things like forcing anybody who wants to buy Windows XP to also buy an X-Box, thereby more than doubling the cost of Windows XP. These types of activities are generally not condoned. It's sort of like if you take a loan out from a bank, the bank can't force you to also buy life insurance. Banks used to do that, but it's now explicitly illegal. Why? Because it's anti-consumer as it forces the consumer to buy something they don't want to get something they need.

        Besides, claiming WMA is proprietary and MP3 is not is not at all accurate. They are both proprietary formats, and like MP3 I'm sure Microsoft would be very happy to license the technology to you if you wanted to encorporate it in your product.

        Also, Microsoft does create a WMA capable player for the Macintosh, so you can hardly say it's not used in other operating systems.
        • Semantic quibbling aside, there are certainly monopolistic qualities to MS's introduction of the Xbox. You've actually given an excellant example, just backwards: When you buy an Xbox, you are essentially buying Windows. This is /both/ definitions of "leverage": on one hand, it makes sense not to reinvent the wheel when creating an OS to run on PC hardware: a good thing. However, since it is Microsoft's OS, they are essentially extending their software into the videogame realm. If in 5 years everyone is making Xbox (Xbox2, etc) games because it is easier and faster to code once for both PCs and consoles, it will be hard to argue that MS's monopolistic position in the OS business was not used to force a position in the console business. MS can argue that this is "good for consumers" since they can get their games faster. However, once competition is eliminated the cost of games can (to a point) become arbitrarily high, OR, development standards can fall (frequent patching for console games, buggy releases, etc) while the cost stays the same.

          As far as MP3 vs. WMA, I think the real story is in the video realm, since the existing multichannel DVD audio specs are also proprietary (DD, DTS). The difference here is that MPEG-2 is an open standard. Developers can (with some jumping through hoops--see tsunami mpeg encoder) fairly easily encode and playback MPEG-2 on Windows, Linux, and their toaster if they feel like it. This is very different than Microsoft having total control, and throwing some scraps to Macintosh operating systems, etc. I believe it remains to be seen if the Mac will ever get this 5.1 channel 96kHz audio codec, let alone the video codecs. (Please correct me if I am mistaken)
  • I really don't think this will be a problem, it seems to me that it's simply WAY to late for them to try this.

    Last Christmas everyone and their mother got a DVD player. DVD already has serious market penetration, and it's set to last the next 10 years or so. People are not going to go out and buy new DVD players any time soon.


    • Last Christmas everyone and their mother got a DVD player. DVD already has serious market penetration, and it's set to last the next 10 years or so. People are not going to go out and buy new DVD players any time soon.


      What if the price of a DVD/WM{a,v} player is $80? Would you buy a second one and put the old one in the bedroom?

  • Why bother? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by josh crawley ( 537561 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @10:28AM (#2693045)
    What's the purpose of this? So what a DVD player can play WMF. Yeah for them.

    Actually, I'm quite jaded on this issue. First, did you know that the MPAA gets cuts from every DVD sold? (You did)... not surprised. But did you also know that the MPAA gets liscensing fees for DVD tech from about $1,000,000. There's a reason China created the standard of SVCD. I'd rather not contribute to an orginazation that makes draconian 'rules' and essentially legislates thier tech to us. Instead of a DVD player, I invest in svcd's and have a tv in/out 500 mHz athalon for our movie purposes at home. VHS is just fine for us.

    Josh Crawley
  • Mostly this is a good idea. Makes it easy to create video-discs that are playable in DVD-players. There is nothing wrong about that.

    The problem is the format, which is closed, proprietary and patented. It gives Microsoft total control over it. This can only contribute to increasing their already dominant monopoly situation.

    I just cannot understand what would be so wrong about Microsoft having to release all of their protocols and formats under royalty-free licenses (Or RAND for commercial entities). Closed protocols and formats have ABSOLUTELY no benefits to the consumers whatsoever.
  • by Ripp ( 17047 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @11:12AM (#2693212) Journal
    Windows XP has built into it now the capacity to capture and edit video (so say the ads) but *ONLY in the Windows Media format*

    Stop. Ponder that. Consider that Apple is now pushing their own OS's ability to capture, edit, and burn DVD video. In MPEG2 no less.

    God forbid MS would just *use the existing standards* that are in place and working-very-well-thank-you-very-much. I guess they get to claim this move as an 'innovation.'
    • by acomj ( 20611 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @12:01PM (#2693427) Homepage
      Microsoft now can tell XP users "use WMF and burn CD's of your videos" watch them in modern DVD players... Much cheaper than DVD burn technology, it gives them an In into the desktop video market. Soon instead of burning weddings etc.. onto DVD those folks will offer cheaper MWF Cds. Download music /videos on your computer and burn them to cd to watch on your tv...

      And only creatable on Microsoft PC's. Very clever indead. Although they may be too late to the party.

      How long till these are playable on Xbox too.....
  • by imuffin ( 196159 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @11:18AM (#2693237)
    A new video codec will boost performance 20 percent over current-generation video codecs, and will enable the playback of high-definition 720 x 1,280 progressive scan video at 24 frames per second, said Will Poole, vice president of the Windows Digital Media Division of Microsoft. Using Windows Media's 4-to-1 compression ratio advantage over MPEG-2, "studios could put all the Godfather movies or an entire musician's discography on a single CD," said Poole.

    Ok, I might believe that windows media compresses 20% better than DVD. But I refuse to believe that using windows media format, you can fit ALL the Godfather movies on ONE CD.

    Godfather 1 [half.com]: 175 minutes

    Godfather 2 [half.com]: 200 minutes

    Godfather 3 [half.com]: 170 minutes

    Total = 545 minutes. Even on a 700 meg CD, that's 1.28 megabytes per minute for audio and video, or 23 KILOBYTES per second. . I wonder how good that's gonna look?
  • by asdfasdfasdfasdf ( 211581 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @11:18AM (#2693238)
    more anti-microsoft pile-ons...

    "The next logical step would be for them to pay movie studios to produce Windows Media format movies that are available before or cost less than regular DVD format, that is, if they are made available in regular DVD format at all!"

    Apple's already there. They have major licensing deals with movie studios to ONLY release new movie trailers in Quicktime format. It's a PITA to see these trailers if you don't want Apples newest nag-soft. (Pay for QT? Let me get this straight, I'm gonna pay so that I can have the priviledge of watching commercials? Yea!)

    As far as the hardware goes, I think it's a great idea. A lower-bandwidth higher-quality codec built into chips? I salivate over the idea of DVD-Quality Video at DSL bandwidth speeds. (And you can't even begin to tell me that uber-lossy-DIVX is DVD quality.)

    Geeze guys, as long as some card manufacturers make linux drivers, why complain?
  • At least with the current standard it takes a while to convert movies to divx, i don't think they'd really like a standard that only requires you to get past the encryption (which has to be weak, or the players would get very expensive).

    So this is probably only good for playing your pirate copies of movies on your TV.
  • This reminds me of what happened with Kerberos.

    I can only hope that the proposal in the courst right now for the MS settlement case goes through, the MS be prohibited from issuing "breakware" stuff that breaks other companies systems, software, etc.

    I have said this many times before, but I used to like MS stuff alot, but now it seems the everything new thring they do just makes me more and more cynical of them. They have lost my trust long ago and far away.

  • They said the same thing a year or so ago with NUON. Oh, NUON enhanced players are going to rock your world. NUON enhanced players are going to revolutionize DVDs. NUON enhanced players will get you chicks. I see this as more 'Nowadays, you can buy a DVD player that will play a CD full of MP3s. Now, it'll also play a CD full of whatever WMP spits out.'
  • by Utopia ( 149375 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @11:30AM (#2693297)
    Windows Media V7 was based on MPEG4 but the newer V8 codecs (which are much more efficient)
    are no longer based on MPEG4.
  • Really folks! Let's be a bit serious here: "...22 Hours of Music from a single CD." A single CD! I can compress my music in to 8 bit stereo 96kbps mp3s, or an equivalent Ogvorbis bitrate and fit more than 22 hours of music on a CD. THe point is do we really want that much music on a CD. With SACD [imgusa.com] quietly penetrating the market and available on many DVD players [imgusa.com], sampling rates in the MHz range, why do we keep insisting on lowering the quality of the music we listen too. We all know the WMA and other such formats, including MP3s are still lossy compression architechtures, and until fractal compression makes its way into media file formats, all this jazz is just that... empty words.

  • by Masem ( 1171 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @11:35AM (#2693318)
    The /. writeup and previous comments suggest that DVDs may be solely released in a WMP or other format other than MPEG-2 compression currently used. I don't think that's what MS is aiming for (they want DVD players with WMP playback, just as there are DVD players with MP3 playback (*)), but the question of compability is still there.

    This is a serious question. DVD has certainly taken off, and people expect that DVD players and movies to be the hot item on the Christmas shoppers' lists this year; I've read that up to now, about 5 million homes have DVD players; now that they've surprassed the $100 market, they expect to see upwards of 10 million homes to have them. That number could easily double in the next year alone.

    With that well-established market, will the movie companies and electronics markets shoot themselves in the foot by releasing DVDs that solely use the 'new' format and thus completely blocking off 5 million players from watching it? I don't think they're that stupid. There's parallels to the copyright scheme used by the RIAA studios to prevent CDs from being copies or ripped on computers, but RIAA understands that only a "small minority" (from 0 to 50% of the consumers) would be affected by this, and in most cases, these affected consumers have another option in which to listen to the music (stereo rack or portable CD player). Here, we're talking about complete unplayability of the disk without going out to buy a second DVD player.

    (Note that there are specific cases of some DVDs being incompatible with certain players. However, these tend to be isolated cases; a single DVD may fail to work on a certain model of player, and rarely does the entire line of DVDs from a specific studio fail on a specific player if one DVD doesn't. In many cases, this are fixed with firmware updates by the makers or similar deals.)

    At least, I can't see this forced upgrade happening in the next 5 years. Consumers would backlash harshly against it, with complacency with the VHS format in which all new tapes continue to work with the oldest players. However, we have the HDTV switch looming in 2006; while this might be delayed, it's going to happen at some point, and with studios and stations fighting for encryption of the signal from reciever to screen, the DVD market players may start pushing this forced upgrade as to remove the older DVD players from the market. But if they try to do this at the same time that people are forced to buy $100 converter boxes or $1000+ TV sets, they're going to find even more consumer backlash.

    Instead, I expect that maybe we'll have a decade before "DVD Enhanced" movies are released, forcing those older players to be removed, and thus getting the market saturated with players tha support this WMP encoding in addition to any other changed the DVD spec may offer. This is not necessarily unreasonable, but again, given that VHS systems from 1990 are still usable today, this might be taken poorly by the consumer. Of course, by that point, the DVD-recordable models may be predominate and sufficiently low cost (less than $200) as to make it attractive to upgrade anyway.

    (*) I beleive that this move is more an attempt to capture the market that Apple has with the ease-of-use video editing and DVD burning that it has built into the MacOS system. If MS can offer a similar path through intergration with XP and WMP, and avoid the encryption via MPEG-2 (a licensing nightmare), they'd have a low cost opponent against Apple's dominance in this area.

    • Current DVD players are based on a short wavelength red laser (cd players used a longer wavelength IR laser) and this is part of the reason why the same size disk can store so much more data (the pits are smaller).

      We now have BLUE laser diodes available (though long life versions are still a few years away) so by the time a format switch is really viewed as a good thing, dvd size disks storing a hundred GB may be possible using the blue lasers. This would be a good time to introduce a new DVD format, (Imagine putting an HDTV 8 hour epic on a single disk).

      Any future player would have to be backward compatible with older DVD's and CD's. The players will wear out before the disks and customers will want to be able to keep their old disks.

      The upgrade from LD to DVD was painfull because I have to keep the old LD player running or replace the disk collection. If DVD formats change and I only have to replace the player. I won't mind this (they drop in price within 2 years after introduction to a reasonable level).
      • Consumers would backlash harshly against [an enforced upgrade of their players in the next 5 years]
      • DVD Manufacturer: Hey, Joe, give us $200 for a new DVD player or you won't be able to watch any new movies.
      • Joe: God damn! Go screw yourself! Hey, elected representative, stop them!
      • Congressman Kickback: Sorry Joe, but that would be interventionist and Big Government. You always say that said you hate Big Government, right? Right? So vote with your dollars. It's not my fault!
      • DVD Manufacturer: Ooh, sorry Joe, for your convenience and security, you can only buy the new players and DVD's now. Congressman Kickback sponsored a bill to mandate that, to protect you from evil foreign terrorists who finance themselves through piracy. It's not our fault!
      • Joe: This sucks! This is total BS! Watch me backlash! Rant! Rave!
      • DVD Manufacturer: By the way Joe, American Pie 6: The Smell of Pie is out today.
      • Joe: Ooh, here's $200!

      Something like that?

    • As a Multimedia Producer who does DVD authoring, we do keep up with the sales numbers in the US.

      According to this chart [thedigitalbits.com] DVD player sales in the US are already above 22 Million, not including DVD ROM drives. Granted, some homes (including mine) have more than one. Conservatively, 15 million homes have DVD players.

      Now,you totally missed the point. The point is not "legacy" DVDs. It's "next-gen" DVDs. Whatever the pundits say, Microsoft is doing a great job working on HDTV technologies. The X-box supports HDTV resolutions. The simultaneously released Game Cube does not. This new technology supports HDTV resolutions as well. This is simply a business trying to get ahead of the curve!

      So, you slam Microsoft for "unscrupulous business practaces" when they release competing projects, and then slam them when they try to bring something new to the marketlpace.

      Cory
      (apparently, a microsoft apologist, today.)
  • It's Called... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by flipper9 ( 109877 )
    Embrace and Extend, my friend...Embrace and Extend...

    http://www.opensource.org/halloween/halloween1.htm l [opensource.org]
  • Longer playback... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by eXtro ( 258933 )
    Yeah, windows media files do have longer playback per byte than a DVD. So does DIVX or MPEG4, but it is also appreciably worse looking. I'm not sure how this would be an advantage anyway. I've yet to see a movie that wouldn't fit onto a single DVD, so for the vast majority of movies the DVD is more than adequate to store a movie with the present technology.


    Microsoft is offering a solution to a non-problem that weakens the benefits of DVD v.s. previous technologies.

  • Lol (Score:2, Funny)

    by TheCrunch ( 179188 )
    WMF DVDs.. hahah.

    Attempting to download decompressor, please wait..
    Could not download decompressor.
    Attempting to download decompressor, please wait..
    Could not download decompressor.
    Attempting to download decompressor, please wait..
    Could not download decompressor.
    Attempting to download decompressor, please wait..
    Could not download decompressor.

    And then you get audio only. I for one can't wait.
    The MS software DVD player shipped with 2K doesn't work properly. Windows Media Player is dodgy as f*** and now they want to combine the two into DVD players that can't even be patched when they realise the players won't play or crash when you try to skip etc.. Hah. What farce.

    At least when Sony DVD players crash they have the decency not to show you a bluescreen.

    I've opted for a tiny PC by the TV to use as DVD player. At least I can patch / update / get cracks for the necessary software so that I can actually watch the DVDs I've paid lots of money for. Heh.

  • Media companies are generally conservative, and are not going to jump to MS's new standard, even if it is MS and if it is twice the quality (or whatever whiz-bang other features it has). People don't upgrade their DVD players like they do their PCs, they aren't designed that way. DVD players play movies: 10 years from now, it's still going to take you 2 hours to watch a 2 hour movie, there really is no reason for upgrading. If you're a media company, and want to sell the most movies you can, you're going to want your movie to work in the widest number of players possible - if you're releasing software and (ignoring development costs) want to make the most money possible, you're not going to require Windows XP just because it has the newest features.
  • by Chanc_Gorkon ( 94133 ) <gorkon.gmail@com> on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @11:57AM (#2693408)
    "Using Windows Media's 4-to-1 compression ratio advantage over MPEG-2, "studios could put all the Godfather movies or an entire musician's discography on a single CD," said Poole. "


    I already do.....I use something called.....MP3. It's a standard (well a default one anyway). Until something comes along that will improve upon this, noone will buy it(well just for that feature alone). Anyone remember the Music industry trying to put out stuff on Minidisc's? It flopped because CD's were a standard (although the MD was superior since it could have track names attached). Now, MP3 is the standard. Yeah it ain't open like OGG, but ask your mom what a MP3 is and she will know. Ask her what a OGG or WMA is and she probably doesn't know. I don't think of this as a bad thing until Windows Media only players are developed and are the only ones sold. I look at this as just another cool thing a DVD player could do along with VCD and MP3 on most common ones available today.
  • Acadamia Land Grab (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GrEp ( 89884 ) <crb002.gmail@com> on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @12:09PM (#2693472) Homepage Journal
    This is just the start of what is to come with it's newest tenticle: Microsoft Research [research]. The whole idea behind the division is to grab the brightest people out of acadamia with a fat paycheck (from monopoly profits) and some great collegues to work with(previously bought out). This way they can come out with products such as WMA [microsoft.com] with an almost instant time to market buy releasing a new version of Windows Media Player or DirectX [microsoft.com]. This is great if you are running Windows. You get the latest algorithms straight out of the labs. Kind of sucks though for the rest of us.
    • MS is creating an environment to let bright people work with other bright people. Yes these smart people get a lot of money for that. But, if these smart people were not into the concept of 'working and getting payed for it', would they accept a job at Microsoft Research? Probably! You know why? Because there are no limits, plus other bright people work there too. The budgets are high, while at universities they're (much) lower, the paychecks make it possible to live a life without moneyproblems and you can work at all the new stuff and toys you can think about.

      Cooking up new technology that will be used by millions is another plus. Why is this a bad thing? Because YOU tend to HATE microsoft? Get a life.
  • by suso ( 153703 )
    For a second there, I read that as "DVD Player Chiapets to support windows media files". I need another drink, or maybe I've had to many.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The sky is falling, the sky is falling.

    Ever consdier how much time and energy you waste watching every move MS makes. How much free press you give MS in your ranting and raving. Rule one of marketing is make sure people talk about you no matter if it is good or bad. Because the public has a short memory for detail and only remember they heard something about MS. So later when at the store buying software, they get MS, because they remember hearing about it a lot.

    As many other have pointed out spend your time talking the benefits of open source, FreeBSD and Linux, not why MS is bad. You talk about MS more than you talk about yourselfs.
  • What is the real plan here? I see another thing happening with this. Most of the new "copy" protections on audio CD's rendered their playback useless on anything but a standard audio CD player. This results in many unhappy consumers. With this new ability by DVD players, now the record companies can start including MS encoded audio tracks so they to can play the CD on more then the standard cd player and have support for more electronic devices? Imagine now that you can listen to the uncompressed raw audio with an audio cd player (and only still left on the disk for backward compatibility), and the encrypted, encoded MS version when the cd in played in anything else. What a plan. Its a win-win for big business and a lose-lose for Joe consumer.
  • Question (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SilentChris ( 452960 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @12:41PM (#2693638) Homepage
    If I remove the topic "Microsoft" from my Slashdot front page, will it also remove all the senseless trolling by Slashdot editors against Microsoft?
  • by ClubStew ( 113954 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @12:56PM (#2693695)

    Come on, guys, is this so bad? Yes, I'm a conspiracy theorist, too, but I hardly think DVD manufacturers would go with WMV as their de facto format. It's not *that* good. As /. pointed out before, they are even looking into MPEG-4 as the new format.

    Besides, how is this different from DVD players now? Ours at home supports MP3's, VCD, etc. etc. It's just another format to throw into the mix. I see no harm in that. I like playing MP3's on my DVD when I'm away from the computer, working on housework or something like that. Hack, even firing up those Christmas tunes in the living room while setting up the tree is nice. With this, it's just another format you can play on your DVD systems.

  • There's something I haven't yet seen posted regarding this article. Slashdot editors and posters are running right to the "Microsoft wants to take over my DVD player" without looking at the tiny step in between.

    Consider these three facts:

    1. New copy-protected CDs come with Windows Media tracks for your computer instead of regular audio tracks.
    2. People are complaining that these new CDs won't work in their DVD players.
    3. Thus, the MPAA encourages Microsoft to put WMA support into DVD players so that people will stop whining about their CDs being unplayable.

    Once 90% of the people can play the CD on their Windows computer, and most of the others can play it on their DVD player, very few people complain about copy protection.

    Microsoft and the MPAA undoubtedly have larger intentions here, but this small facet of the whole WMA deal has been completely overlooked.

    Keep complaining about copy protection, and please try to buy a nice high-end DVD player NOW, rather than later. We don't need copy protected CDs, and we can make them fail, but not if we keep buying the technology that makes them work.
  • Let's all stop superior technology like the WMA format because it belongs to a company that is a big player in some other area than soundformat technology.

    Like the world is gaining anything with that. Why is it so hard for some people to realize sometimes actually something good and usable is created by that 5 billion $$$ research budget.
  • WMA ~ CSS (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dbitter1 ( 411864 ) <slashdot@ca r n i v o r e s -r.us> on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @01:55PM (#2694103)
    From a we-are-going-to-play-this-disk-without-content-pro tection standpoint, how is this any different than CSS?

    Assume that the average consumer purchases a non-upgradable DVD player containing CSS and WMA decoding algorithms. The consumer also buys a disk containing a non-changing image.

    With both images static, if WMA is cracked, the cat is out of the bag. Again. And it's only a matter of time.

    So bring it on...

  • by IGnatius T Foobar ( 4328 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @02:42PM (#2694417) Homepage Journal
    There may be an interesting side effect here. The moment WMA format becomes implemented in hardware in any significant scale, the format is effectively "fixed" -- since you can't force people to go out and buy a new DVD player every year, you have to make sure that all new audio and video programs are playable on those Version 1 chips.

    This means that WMA is no longer a moving target for anyone who wants to reverse engineer the format and put together a compatible player. Undoubtedly the Evil Empire will unleash swarms of lawyers at the first person who does it, but the effort could be lead overseas (that is, until Microsoft realizes that buying the US government wasn't enough and begins to start buying other governments as well).
  • by Dr. Spork ( 142693 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @03:39PM (#2694788)
    Poor DiVX. I fear for its future. If this goes through, DiVX is all washed up. You see, I'm a fan of trading videos with like-minded folks over the net. Right now, the defacto format for online video trading is DiVX. It's biggest competition is VCD-Mpeg, a much less efficient format. Why is it even around? Because many people like to burn their traded files to CD and watch them on their living room DVD player. They're prepared to take the hit in quality and efficiency for that advantage. Now add WMV to the mix: Compression as good as DiVX (or close)... AND you can play it on the living room player. You can be sure there will be many requests on newsgroups like "hey, can you post that pr0n/TV show/movie in WMV?" When you have the quality of DiVX and the convenience of VCD, the only reason to avoid Microsoft's format will be one of principle. How long should we suppose that will hold up?

    The absolutely obvious solution to all this is to lure a DVD manufacturer to make a player that can read DiVX. Technically, it would even be legal with DiVX4. Mark my words: if this doesn't happen, the "best" movie trading group in two years will be alt.binaries.movies.wmv. I don't want this kind of future, but I don't see how to prevent it.

    Possible salvation: some sane soul makes a linux-based living room DVD player that doesn't have a DVD decode chip but instead a bona fide CPU (Duron? Crusoe?) to do decoding. It also has an ethernet port and can play movies stored anywhere on the home network, and can upload and install new codecs at will--including, of course, DiVX. People, we have the technology to do this now. Please! Please! Can't you hack an X-Box into one of these things? In any case, I promise you I'll buy the first such player that costs US$500 or less.

  • by pjrc ( 134994 ) <paul@pjrc.com> on Wednesday December 12, 2001 @04:30PM (#2695109) Homepage Journal
    Some time ago, I read through a bunch of microsoft documentation about their "advanced streaming format". One of the claimed features was the ability of the format to include the codec together with the data, so that the user's machine would automatically get the new codec installed (presumably only x86 binary code, compatible only with windows). Has anyone else noticed this?

    Maybe there's security measures in place... I do not know, but given Microsoft's history of security conscious design (lack thereof), there's probably a very interesing WMA/WMV security alert or virus opportunity (depending on the shade of one's hat, I suppose). It'd be really amazing if consumer DVD players had a typical Microsoft security hole in them.... but since they're not networked it's hard to imagine it becoming a major problem. However, consumers have much higher quality standards and generally expect warranty coverage for their DVD player components (something Microsoft doesn't know much about from their buggy-software perpetual-upgrade business model). It's not clear if these new DVD players will just execute code from Microsoft or if the manufactures will re-implement the WMV/WMA "standards".

    Anyway, I thought I'd pass along this little tidbit, which I really don't know anything about (but hey, this is slashdot....) It I'm totally off-base, just mod me down.

How many hardware guys does it take to change a light bulb? "Well the diagnostics say it's fine buddy, so it's a software problem."

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