Windows Media Player 11 now available

Redmond (WA) - Quashing rumors that the latest version of Microsoft's digital media player would be delayed, the software giant today released Windows Media Player 11. The new application sports a new sleek look and improved syncing abilities with portable devices.

Most of the changes are in the control and navigation of menus and settings within the application. For example, back and forward buttons have been added that, like when browsing the Internet, allow users to go back to previous songs and videos with the click of a button.

Additionally, taking a page out of the changes in Internet Explorer 7, the main menu toolbar has been removed, in favor of an on-demand menu available with a right-click of the mouse. New controls have also been embedded on the lower playback toolbar, including shuffle and full-screen modes.

The other big change is the addition of URGE, an all-encompassing music service offered by MTV and is powered through WMP 11. In addition to providing streaming music, users can download songs, create playlists, subscribe to feeds of music news, and rip/burn music CDs through the URGE platform.

The last installment, Windows Media Player 10, was released in October of 2004, making the period between 10 and 11 the longest gap between new versions of the software. With Internet Explorer 7, Windows Vista, and Office 2007 all coming out within months of each other, it seems Microsoft is really trying to update its image completely.

Of course, the other notable thing about the new Windows Media Player is that it comes just weeks before the launch of Microsoft's first branded digital media player, the Zune, which is slated for launch on 14 November.

Windows Media Player 11 is available as a free download on Microsoft's site and is currently only compatible with the Windows XP operating system.