TheReg also reports that Microsoft will not ship MP3 ripping software with their latest Operating System Windows XP.
Microsoft’s story is that the MP3 encoder that shipped with earlier builds of WinXP was there simply to test that the functionality worked. That encoder wasn’t capable of high quality recording, so it did rather look like Microsoft was shipping it deliberately in this form to make WMA sound better. But it was possible to install higher bit rate MP3 encoders, so the only real change now is that the baseline functionality has been removed from the beta, and the shipping product.
If Microsoft were to ship higher quality MP3 encoders with WMP it would have to pay a licence fee, and it has some justification in arguing that it would be unreasonable to expect it to do so. On the other hand, the argument that Microsoft is attempting to buy its way into the market by giving its technology away for free and destroying the established competitors applies just as much here as it did in the case of IE versus Netscape.
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