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MS ends Mac media player development

Company's 'commitment' to Mac users doesn't go that far

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Microsoft hasn't updated the Mac version of Windows Media Player since 28 November 2003, and it doesn't look like it's going to do so ever again - despite the software giant's plan, stated this week, to continue developing Office:Mac for the next five years or more.

"We have no plans to provide future updates or product support for Windows Media Player for Mac," said a Microsoft spokesman this week, Cnet reports.

It's an interesting decision. On the one hand, WMP has always played second fiddle on the Mac to Apple's own QuickTime Player. Then again, it has lagged behind the Windows version somewhat - focusing on video playback and largely ignoring the music side - and with the announcement of WMP 11 on Windows, the gap is increasing.

Yet with WMP acting as a key intermediary to commercial digital music services, there's an argument for maintaining it. A number of digital music providers who use Microsoft technology have expressed an interest in selling to Mac users, but have been prevented from doing so by a lack of Mac software that matches the music features offered by Windows' WMP 10 - or even WMP 9, for that matter.

Microsoft's move is about focusing its Mac software development work on core products: Office, clearly, but the company has also promised updates for Messenger. It has also dropped Internet Explorer - which will be removed from its list of downloadable apps at the end of the month - MSN for Mac and a number of other tools.

The upshot in this latest instance, however, is to cede the Mac digital music market to Apple. The iTunes Music Store is the de facto leader of course, but now there's no chance at all of competition from most of the sector's major players. Only RealNetworks can now provide an alternative.

Microsoft has begun promoting a third-party tool, Telestream's Flip4Mac WMV, which is a free Windows Media Video codec for QuickTime. Telestream also sells a range of upgrades that support WMV-to-QuickTime conversion and other, more advanced features. ®

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