In ExtremeTech, the redoubtable Mark Hachman has unearthed Microsoft's "Windows Media Wish," where apparently users' wishes for future versions of Windows Media Player come true. But seeing the list of successful wishes has been around since March 25th,* and anyway we think Mark either missed something or was too deeply ironic for us, we're doing it too.
Microsoft lists ten wishes that have already been granted here, and as Mark points out, the successful wishers are not identified. But it seems to us that some of the wishes are strangely coincidental with Microsoft's own wishes. We are not saying that these users do not exist, of course, but we are reminded of the piece of trial documentation which showed Microsoft deciding what the OS would cost and then commissioning the survey that would confirm the number it thought of in the first place.
But what do you make of these?:
Microsoft: "I wish there was a faster and easier way to burn Audio CDs. Creating a CD of your favorite MP3s and Windows Media Audio files is as easy as assembling a playlist, selecting your drive, and clicking Copy Music. Watch the demonstration video Take it With You to learn more. Want an easier way to create a label as hot as your mix? Microsoft Plus! for Windows XP includes a CD label maker that will help you complete the package."
The Register: We're not entirely clear that this is materially simpler than the way alternative products do it and note that Microsoft doesn't get too specific about whether actual burning is any faster. But we do note the non-sequitur commercial for XP Plus!, which is a paid-for product most of whose gizmos are designed for Media Player. So we wish, 'why don't you just shove all this stuff in Media Player instead of charging people for locking themselves into your products harder?'
Microsoft: "I wish it was easier to transfer my protected content to a new computer. If you want to buy a new computer, there’s no need to worry about enjoying the protected music you've already copied from CD. To help you easily migrate your music from one computer to another, Microsoft has taken digital rights management (DRM) usability to a new height with two new utilities - Personal License Update Wizard for Windows Media Player and Personal License Migration Service. For more information, read How to Move Your Digital Music and Video Collection to Windows XP."
The Register: No you don't, you lamebrain. You wish you could just record music off CDs the way you used to before DRM started to hit, and you wish the poison audio CDs had proper labels in big letters on them saying 'I am a poison audio CD, I am sold by people who think you're a thief, boycott me now.' Nevertheless, surely a big bonus is in order for whichever Microsoft marketing droid found a user who either thinks DRM is for their protection rather than the vendors', or that the war is already lost. Of late we've noticed a certain growth in articles in the public prints on why DRM is your furry little friend, and we'd deduce a Redmond marketing offensive underlying these.
Microsoft: "I wish I could copy CD’s onto my PC in the MP3 format. MP3 Creation Packs for Windows XP give you more choice than other players by letting you pick your favorite MP3 creation engine to install in Windows Media Player. With your selected MP3 Creation Pack, you can compress your music into the MP3 format with Windows Media Player and get full support for all of Windows XP’s new digital media features including automatic album art, media information in ID3v2 format and much more."
The Register: We doubt very much this user meant 'I wish you could give me the opportunity to buy MP3 add-ons for Media Player,' which is what the answer really says. Microsoft does not include MP3 copying facilities in WMP for licensing reasons, and actually we reckon this is fair enough for a free product, and that MP3's non-free nature has maimed it badly as a standard. We wish we could see the faces of the Microsoft operatives if they were asked for: 'I wish you could just drag tracks from a browser window onto an audio CD and have them converted to the format of my choice on your hard disk, track lookup and all.' The Konqueror browser for Linux does this into .wav and .ogg (Ogg Vorbis) formats, but for obvious reasons we fear this minor and obvious killer app will never make it to Media Player.
Microsoft: "I wish more devices supported Windows Media Audio today. Now more than 100 consumer electronics devices support Windows Media including Portable Music Players, CD Players, Home Stereo Components, Pocket PC’s, Gaming Devices (Xbox), Wireless devices, Car Stereos and now DVD players. See for yourself with our Windows Media On The Go guide.
The Register: Another prize user, who wishes exactly the same thing as Microsoft does and who presumably also wishes that these devices would cooperate better with Microsoft and the record business in order to stop people 'stealing' stuff. However, the Windows Media On The Go guide appears only to list WMA-supporting players, rather than the more user-suspicious next generation ones. Careful with it just the same, though.
Far be it from us to encourage you to spam Microsoft with subversive wishes by publishing the link you should use (you'll just have to dig it out yourself). But we liked Mark's wishes: "a removal of digital-rights-management software, a corporate decision to open-source the Windows Media codec, or even a high-definition cut of the famous 'Monkey Boy' video starring Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer."
Except for that last one - it's quite frightening enough as it is. We'd wish for Microsoft ratcheting up that 'removal of DRM' by adopting a corporate stance that the efforts of the entertainment business and its greedy lackies to increase their revenues by forcibly removing users' rights are despicable and doomed to failure, and recommending instead that they expend their resources on a thorough re-examination of the nature of ownership in the digital age, before it's too late. There, that's an easy one. ®
* "News is something I hadn't heard already" - Drew Cullen