Being an OS monopolist has its privileges, and making the competition look bad on your ubiquitous desktop has to be one of the sweetest. So it comes as no surprise that the Redmond Beast has apparently decided to equip Windows XP with second-rate MP3 software, thereby limiting the recording and playback quality of MP3 files which compete with its Windows Media Audio.
According to a superb story in today's Wall Street Journal, MS "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 [PC] operating system, Windows XP. But music recorded in the Redmond software company's own format, called Windows Media Audio, will sound clearer and require far less storage space on a computer."
Microsoft's cover story for this diabolical bit of market extortion is that it merely wishes to protect copyright holders by pushing an audio format with superior digital rights management capability, and spare itself the onerous burden of a $2.50 license fee for a deluxe, high-fidelity version of MP3 recording software.
But Journal clearly isn't buying that line. "The industry doesn't want [MP3] pushed, and Microsoft and RealNetworks don't want it pushed. The consumer is going to eat what he's given," the paper quotes former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chief technologist David Farber as saying.
The new restrictions in Win-XP won't prevent other apps from recording MP3 music with high fidelity, the Journal says, but notes that beta testers have reported heaps of bugs among MP3 recording applications run on XP.
The problem there might be the usual early difficulty with new drivers, but then again, there are obvious motives not to rush to resolve it.
"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," the article concludes with a nice hint of skepticism. ®