Windows XP hinders the MP3 standard
Will the MP3 files have the same fate as the Netscape browser? If Microsoft had their way, their own WMA (Windows Media Audio) audio format would have long been the standard for compressing audio files. To promote the spread of WMA files, Microsoft is once again using its dominant position in the market for operating systems.
Windows XP, which will be available later this year, will continue to play MP3 files at any bit rate, but only can still generate MP3 files with a maximum of 56KiloBit/s. That this leaves a lot to be desired in the quality of the songs becomes clear when you consider that music exchanges actually do not exchange MP3s with a bit rate lower than 128 kilobit/s. When converting an audio file to the WMA format developed by Microsoft, however, there are no such restrictions. Allegedly, other programs that can create MP3s with better quality than 56 kilobit/s are prevented from doing this by Windows XP.
The reason for this procedure is the copyright of the audio files. WMA is designed so that the publisher can determine exactly what can and cannot be done with the file. With WMA, for example, you can specify whether the file can be burned to CD or how often it can be played. MP3 lacks such functions completely, which is why the music industry is probably not inclined to bring its songs to the people in MP3 format.
A problem for Microsoft and the music industry, however, is the already considerable spread of the MP3 format. There are tons of portable MP3 players out there, and many computer applications are specifically geared towards MP3. In addition, alternative operating systems such as Linux will in no way help to replace the MP3 standard.