"...Thomson Multimedia and the Fraunhofer Institute, the companies behind the MP3 digital music format, are releasing an upgraded version of their music format Thursday called MP3Pro. The companies hope to attract software and hardware developers to the new technology but are also providing a version for consumers to play with. Although the release will be limited, it will include a new player and "ripper," or file creator, that will allow music lovers to create near-CD quality digital music files using only about half the disc space previously required for MP3s.
While MP3Pro files will work with software and devices based on the current MP3 format, they may sound worse on systems designed for standard MP3s because of differences in the way the sound is recorded. MP3Pro uses two separate streams of data to improve audio quality, only one of which can be detected by older players.
The release comes as the old MP3 format is under increasing pressure from companies such as Microsoft and RealNetworks, who have struck deals with record companies to use their technology in subscription or download services. But with the nearly universal use of MP3s online, Thomson and Fraunhofer hope to finally win their way into the record companies' graces. Others aren't nearly as confident about this strategy's success. Analysts note that even the new MP3Pro will lack any kind of built-in anti-piracy mechanism. This makes it a far less attractive choice than Windows Media from the record companies' perspective, they say..."