Windows Media 10 is always going to invite comparisons with iTunes, but there are many features built into WM10 that Apple’s music client won’t have for a while, if ever. This latest release of is part of Microsoft’s latest strategy to get into the living rooms (and pockets) of media-savvy households by providing useful tools and an easy to use interface for accessing music, video and more.
The first thing I noticed after Windows Media 10 installed, was that it’s much faster and responsive than the iTunes client. iTunes has a habit of pausing and sitting there unresponsively after some tasks. WM10 will then scan your hard drive for all compatible media types, from MP3s to recorded TV shows. High Definition video is supported, with tools and advice for optimising the experience.
The Media Library view is, for me, the most useful and shows off WM10’s Media Centre capabilities best. Recorded programmes can be sorted by series or actor, for example, and even includes a separate category for programmes that have not been watched yet.
One of the most interesting features of the player is the way that it integrates with online stores, including MSN Music. The execution is simple – the player just acts as a web browser – but works beautifully and demonstrates that Microsoft really only needs a web-based store and not a software client like iTunes. Support is included for a broad range of stores and media types – users can even buy and view content direct from CinemaNow without leaving the player.
As promised, synchronisation with more than 70 hardware players has been extended and simplified and will automatically update your portable media centre with new music or video when attached.
Definitely the best media player out there – and it’s difficult to see Real or iTunes catching up on functionality or ease of use any time soon.