From what I can gather Windows Media Player WMP will get a major update to version 10 in a few months. Therefore, now that the development team are preparing for the new release, I think we as users of the product should start making our suggestions.
For me I believe that WMP needs improvements in two areas: Usability and support of more formats.
Usability: I believe that WMP 9 is difficult to use for the average user. Loaded with a great number of icons, little buttons and controls, WMP's interface is not simple to navigate, learn and take advantage of. WMP uses non-standard menus and dialogs and it draws in its own way its controls. I think the interface should be made simpler by grouping commands in standard menus and dialogs, and by streamlining the way that users access the various functions of the player. This might be done by including more wizards or simply by starting WMP in a simpler mode with the minimal buttons (play, pause, stop, etc) on the screen and by including a button let's say called Show in Full Mode, for displaying the more advanced interface.
WMP also needs to improve its accessibility for people with disabilities by providing keyboard shortcuts (that work!) to many of its functions. Currently, the Rewind shortcut CTRL+SHIFT+B never ever works and the Jump Forward command CTRL+SHIFT+F works only for file played from the local computer but not for music played on cds or on the Internet. In addition the CTRL+SHIFT+F shortcut changes the speed of the song instead of jumping forward in it as it should. However, I believe that adding straight forward shortcuts to the player will assist everyone of us, since we would be able to quickly access its functionality without spending time with the mouse. Take example from the old Winamp v2's shortcuts:
z for previous song, x for play, c for pause, v for stop, ctrl+v for stop after current song (something that WMP does not support!), shift+v for fading out (something that is not easy to do in WMP!), b for next song, j for jumping to a song by typing the beginning of its name (very handy!), cursor right for forward, left for rewind, up for volume up and down for volume down.
Support for more formats: Since WMP is provided with every copy of Windows it should by default support most popular formats for streaming, playback and ripping cds and not simply what Microsoft offers. Also developpers would be greatly assisted in their own programs if the standard Windows codex could support most of the major formats for playback. Currently, WMP only supports ripping to WMA. I think it should support wav, mp3, aac and if possible Real Audio. Ripping cds to wav is very useful to my mind and should be added. Since most sound editing programs accept the wav format whilst support for wma is not so high still and if not using lossless WMA the sound quality also degrates, wav should be supported by all means. In addition WMP should playback aac format, Quicktime video, mp4 video and if possible streaming Real Audio/Video in addition to the current support. And if all these formats should appear to some to be very costly for Microsoft, it should be pointed out that Real Player v10 currently supports all of them and even more with extra plugins and it is still free. So, the only reason for Microsoft to continue only supporting WMA for ripping and for streaming over the Internet and not supporting aac, Real Audio/Video streaming, ripping to wav, etc, appears to be to push its own WMA/WMV format. Without saying that WMA is not a good format, since WMP ships with every copy of Windows it should at least support a bit more.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? What other suggestions should be added for the next Player, especially for developers?
Support for the RealMedia, Quicktime, DivX and Xvid without the need of third party codecs/software would be great. The ability to copy my DVDs to my computer (make a DVD version of CD Copy) would also be great as it would enable me to no longer need to find my DVDs when I am going to watch them. Having the overlays off by default would be great (as only one application can use them and this caused problems with ATI MMC until I realized it).
Another thing I would like to see (as it makes my life easier) is the ability to minimize Windows Media Player to a system tray icon (so it isn't on the task bar). That would be a great space saver as I like to listen to music while doing things that require several windows open (e.g. web programming).
The last feature I can think of that would be good to have would be an easier way to take screenshots of video. Currently, I have to use Print Screen, place the screenshot in paint, etc... The ability to simply press a button, get a save as window, and save the screenshot in either TIFF, JPEG, PNG, etc, would be great.