In the beginning, Windows Media Player was the headquarters for music and video on your PC. It was the Grand Central Terminal for things like music CDs (you could play ’em, copy songs off ’em, and burn ’em); MP3 files and other digital songs (you could sort ’em, buy ’em online, and file ’em into playlists); pocket music players of the non-iPod variety (fill ’em up, manage their playlists); Internet radio stations; DVD movies (watch ’em); and so on.
Media Player still does all that, and more. But it’s no longer clear that this is the program you’ll use for these activities. Gradually, the Media Player audience is splintering. Nowadays, a certain percentage of people are using alternative programs like these:
iTunes. If you have an iPod or an iPhone, you use Apple’s iTunes software to do your music and video organizing.
Zune software. If you have a Zune music player, you have to use yet another jukebox program—the software that came with it—for loading up and organizing your player.
Media Center. Many of Media Player’s functions are now duplicated in Windows Media Center, the vast playback engine described in Chapter 16.
Still, most of the Windows world continues to use Windows Media Player as their music-file database. Version 12 has some excellent new features, including a cleaner design, free streaming through your house—or even over the Internet—to other computers, and playback of more kinds of audio and video files (the new types include H.264, AAC, ...