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Windows Media Player 11: Early bit of Aero

For someone who loves to see new user interface ideas, it doesn’t get much better than the current season of Microsoft betas. Last week Microsoft released a beta of Windows Media Player 11, followed this week by betas of Office 2007 and Windows Vista. These products are all such significant updates that, regardless of one’s opinion of Microsoft and its products, they should all present ample inspiration for user interface designers.

Although I don’t think Microsoft has billed it as such, I believe Windows Media Player will end up being considered to be the first product in the Vista wave of UIs to actually ship. (Rumored release dates put it sometime in the next month or so.) Windows Media Player 11 already embodies many of the Vista user interface principles and the Aero visual style.


Vista and Aero elements that can be seen in the beta include:

I do have one minor nit: The toolbar buttons across the top are split buttons (on hover, a small portion of the button reveals a dropdown menu), but the target area for the dropdown arrow is a incredibly thin horizontal rectangle across the bottom of the button. Common sense (and consequences of Fitts’ Law) suggest that targets are easier to hit if they’re big and square. The decision to use a target area along the bottom of the button was presumably influenced by aesthetic considerations. (Putting the dropdown arrow on the right would spoil the general horizontal symmetry throughout this UI.) I can appreciate the importance of aesthetic concerns, but here it seems they should have been overpowered by the practical need for usability. Or perhaps it’s the case that only young people with hyperfine dexterity are the people that want to quickly rip albums at specific bit rates.

Anyway, after a week of using WMP 11, I’m quite impressed.