Microsoft Stops Developing Windows Media Player For The Mac

Media encoding specialist Telestream said in a statement released this week that Microsoft had agreed to distribute Windows Media components for QuickTime through the Nevada City, Calif., company's Flip4Mac technology. Flip4Mac enables Mac OS X users to play Windows Media video and audio directly within QuickTime.

Instead of providing a player, Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash., directs Web site visitors to a page where they can download a free version of Flip4Mac. While not providing Windows Media Player 10 for the Mac, Microsoft still offers version 9 for Mac OS X and version 7.1 for the older Mac.

Microsoft officials were unavailable for comment, but Joe Wilcox, analyst for JupiterResearch, said the company decided to stop development in order to redirect resources to other areas. In addition, Microsoft claimed it didn't have access to enough of Apple's operating system to provide all the capabilities and copyright protection in Windows Media Player that the company wanted.

"I think it's too bad in a way," Wilcox said. "I would have liked to see a new Windows Media version for the Mac, and have Microsoft take the media battle to Apple's home court."

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Both companies sell operating systems for portable media players, as well as computers. Currently, however, Apple has a strong lead with the iPod, which commands about three fourths of the market. To date, Microsoft's hardware manufacturing partners have been out-marketed by Apple, analysts say.

In addition, both companies are fighting for a prominent position in people's living rooms by offering their operating systems as an entertainment hub capable of distributing video, audio and photos to consumer electronic devices attached to a home network.

In announcing the deal with Telestream, Microsoft indicated there was still a demand for playing Windows Media files on the Mac.

“Consumers and content professionals are demanding great ways to view Windows Media content on the Macintosh using the platform and tools they know,” Kevin Unangst, director of the Windows Digital Media Division at Microsoft, said in a statement. “The Windows Media Components for QuickTime, powered by Telestream&'s Flip4Mac technology, provide this important capability and live up to Telestream&'s reputation for outstanding media solutions.”

A Telestream spokeswoman, however, confirmed on Thursday that Flip4Mac was unstable with the latest QuickTime, version 7.0.4, causing the player to crash when closing Apple's Web browser Safari. The company learned of the flaw late Tuesday or early Wednesday, and published a fix on the company's Web site Thursday.

The joint announcement by Telestream and Microsoft came the same day the latter company said it would keep developing its Office suite for the Mac for at least five more years.

The announcement was important for enterprises that use the Mac OS X. About 21 percent of companies with 10,000 employees or more use the operating system on the desktop, and all of them use Office for the Mac, according to JupiterResearch.