"...Microsoft announced that three of its partners will sell add-ons for Windows XP that will give users the option to turn CD tracks into high quality MP3 (MPEG-1 Audio Layer-3) files. Simultaneously with the launch of Windows XP on October 25, CyberLink, InterVideo and Ravisent Technologies each will offer two add-on packs for Windows XP, one providing full MP3 support and the other DVD (Digital Versatile Disc) playback. Microsoft will promote the software via links from Windows Media Player for Windows XP. Pricing has yet to be determined.
With the add-ons, users will for the first time be able to rip CDs and create MP3 files with Windows Media Player. Until now the software only offered a playback feature; creating MP3s required software from Microsoft's competitors, such as RealNetworks. The DVD software will allow users to playback DVD discs in Windows Media Player.
The move could help Microsoft fence off criticism that it seeks to crush MP3 by only supporting its own WMA (Windows Media Audio) format. Microsoft fuelled criticism when it included an inferior MP3 encoder in a test version of Windows XP. The software only allowed encoding at low bit rates, resulting in files with poor sound quality. Without the add-ons Windows Media Player can turn audio tracks from CDs into files in the WMA format, which according to Microsoft offers CD-quality sound in half the size of MP3 files..."