Windows 7 is going to ship with an updated version of Windows Media Player, WMP 12, which we’re excited to try out. In keeping with the new look of Microsoft apps, the new Media Player features a brighter, lighter look that reminds me of the new Windows Live betas. However, it’s not just the UI that looks different – the player itself offers some pretty cool new features, too.
For one, the new Media Player will offer two different player modes: a Library View and a Now Playing View. The Library View is where you can can manage your music, video, and pictures, make playlists, and the Now Playing View shows the playlist, visualizations, and videos. (Hop on over to Ars Technica for some great screenshots of this). There’s also a taskbar miniviewer that is somewhat reminiscent of the Windows Media Player toolbar, except that it appears to be a bit larger and doesn’t need to be enabled by checking an option to display the toolbar as it does now in XP and Vista.
Other features include Jump Lists from the taskbar and automatic previews, but honestly, the feature I’m most excited for is the extended codec support. In the next version of Media Player, there will be support for H.264 video, AAC audio, Xvid and DivX video, as well as all the formats supported by WMP11 in Vista (MPEG2, WMV, MP3, etc.). That means that WMP will be able to play the majority of audio formats right out of the box, even iTunes files, unless they’re protected with FairPlay DRM. You can buy DRM-free music from iTunes for a slightly higher price, but both Amazon and the Zune Marketplace, among others, feature DRM-free music. (Zune store is about 80% DRM-free). At last! No more codec packs required.