Microsoft Windows Media Player 10 & the Handheld PC
Originally when some bright spark put the idea of the Handheld PC and music together, Microsoft outing into the Digital future was nothing more than a music player and a little known codec called NetShow. Do you remember Windows Media Player 6? Chances are if you've ever used an older version of Windows you do. All you had to do was double click a music file and it'd play the song. It was that simple because that was all it did.
How times have changed.
In 2001 Microsoft released Windows Media Player 8, exclusively for the new Windows XP. This unfortunately had one key drawback. It removed support for what is know as a Legacy Device. A legacy device in IT is just something that is considered antiquated by overpaid IT consultants. Alas Windows CE based Handheld PC's, with their serial connections and older Windows Media Player 1.2 for H/PC were considered antiquated. As a result Windows XP's new media player and the H/PC could not coexist. This was again reinforced with the 2003 release of Windows Media Player 9 for Windows.
It's now 2004, and Microsoft are currently in the process of developing Windows Media Player 10. A technical preview release has been made available via the Windows Media home page on microsoft.com. So where does the Handheld PC stand with this new release?
The technical preview is now available for any Windows XP user to download and install for free. Before you all run off to download it, remember that this is still a beta application. In testing for this article I have had a lot of problems with it, so would advice that most readers wait the extra couple of months until it formally arrives. If that hasn't put you off. In true Microsoft fashion, WMX doesn't have an uninstall. You have been warned.
Aesthetically the new player takes some getting used to. I still prefer the cumulative looks of Media 9, although there are features about the interface that are nicely designed. Something Microsoft are very good at. If it tickles your fancy, we have a Skin for the H/PC media player of the same.
But what of it's ability to talk to the Handheld PC?
Windows Media Player Technical Preview is free to download. However is currently
only available for Windows XP. System Restore profiles are required to remove
the program, which may interfere with other applications on your system.
Of note in this release is Microsoft's attempt to implement ActiveSync like
functionality - called Auto Sync - into the Portable Device engine of Media
Player. The idea being that whether you connect a PDA, MP3 Player, Web Pad and
so on. Synchronisation can automatically occur between your host music library
and the 'snippet' of that collection stored on your Portable Device.
'Snippets' are defined using Windows Media Playlists or via collective groupings in ID3 tags (such as by Artist, Album, Genre and so on).
The interface looks simple enough. However unfortunately it's not drag and
drop. You have to get the tracks You want to copy over to the device in the
list on the left hand side. Order them and then press the start Sync button.
Sounds simple enough?
You can't just place a tick next to a track or artist. You have to cumbersomely
move things around between the Windows in the tiny interface above. The saving
grace is that You can go into the main media library and "highlight, right
click, add to, sync" the tracks that You want. Which for me, who is used
and always will be used to the Windows Media 6 way of doing things. Is just
When You Press the "Start Sync" button. The first step is for each
media file to be converted. Naturally as this is Microsoft's own player. They
are converted into Windows Media Audio, in the case of the Technical Preview
WMA version 9. After conversion they are automatically uploaded to the Portable
Device. If You have a library of MP3 files this can be something of a bind,
however the space saving when converting down into WMA is well worth the wait.
The error message displayed above seems to be perpetual. It is an unknown error within the DRM module. My believe is that the Sync manager is attempting to copy protect the music file. However it can't get the necessary information from the old Media Player on the H/PC. Media player also thinks that the error message is a music file, and if You double click it, locks up the playlist nicely.
The other problem that occurs on the sync is that no matter where You click.
It always places the music files on the root of 'My Handheld PC'. Hopefully
this will be fixed by the release, even if the DRM error isn't.
You can also create folders as well as delete folders and files from the device in the Media Player Sync interface. Provided that Media Player on the H/PC is closed down.
While going into more detail on the over all player is beyond the scope of
this article Windows Media Player 10 looks like it will be a good overall release.
The fact that in this Technical Preview it can talk not only to USB equipped
H/PC's but Serial devices as well is a welcome relief, and one I hope will remain.
I can't help but think it would be better if Microsoft hadn't removed the full
support when they released Windows Media Player 8.
Windows Media Player can be found at the following URL.
Want to have You say about Windows Media 10 and the HPC?