Windows Media Player

See also: Audio Formats | Video Formats | MP3 | Real | Quicktime | OGG

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File extensions: .WMA, .WMV, .ASF

An audio and video player available by default for Windows (and a stripped-down version for Macintosh). Later Windows versions include audio quality-improvement features and music-driven visualizations. This player is not privacy-friendly, communicating data about media usage to Microsoft. Among other things, Microsoft makes its money from the Digital Rights Management and from selling the hardware decoder, which is usually better quality-for-size ratio than MP3.

File formats:

Microsoft‘s proprietary multimedia container file format. To ensure that content is associated with compatible players, Microsoft uses several different file extensions.

.WMA – Windows Media Audio – an attempt to take the lucrative audio compression market away from MP3. This encoding system or codec, was released in December 2000, is smaller than MP3 and widely used in embedded devices such as portable MP3 players. Other competition includes MP3Pro, Ogg Vorbis, and Real Audio. While one of the better methods of encoding for low and mid-quality files, not as good as Ogg Vorbis on high-bitrate files (see Best Compressed Audio Format). Also not as convenient as other types of files, with no save to WAV file capability.
Later versions of Windows Media Player (9+) allow for Variable Bitrate Audio and Lossless audio.
.WMV – Windows Media Video is similarly designed to take the Video Compression market away from Real Networks, Inc. While extremely small, it is somewhat grainy in comparison to Quicktime, DivX and other formats.
.ASF – Advanced Systems Format for content compressed with other codecs.

Many times, ASF is confused with Microsoft’s implementations of MPEG-4 video format, because most of the ASF streams are encoded using this technology. ASF stores audio, multi-bit-rate video and metadata in one file. This file container supports files as large as 17 million terabytes.

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