Wherever you look the world of technology is becoming more focused on digital media. Whether its cameras, music, or burning a CD we all now use our PCs for more than just bashing out the odd letter to the bank manager.
With that in Mind Microsoft has launched an add-on to the XP operating system - Microsoft Plus! Digital Media Edition. Focused purely on the digital aspects of PC use, there are 10 applications on the CD: Photo Story, Party Mode, Analog Recorder, Dancer, CD Label Maker, Sync & Go, Audio Converter, Effects and Transitions, Alarm Clock, and a wrath of skins for Windows Media Player.
The collection of programs complement each other and it does add to the digital output capabilities of your PC. However as will all software packages that purport to offer you so much there are some turkeys in here that really will just waste space on your hard drive. Dancer for example is an application that will put a dancing woman on top of your tool bar and dance whenever you play music. The lifelike model at first did seem to be dancing to the tracks that played however putting on some classical music soon showed us that it was completely random. While this didn’t really surprise us, what did was that Microsoft has actually spent time creating something so pointless. I mean, why on earth would you want a character dancing on your taskbar. Very strange. The dancing baby screensaver was a laugh, this just panders to geek can’t-get-a-girl stereotypes of computer users, who could quite easily find this on the internet without paying for it.
Another programs on the disc that offer an interesting take on things is the Party Mode, a program that bolts onto Windows Media Player and allows you to block your machine to party guests but still play all your music files. People can leave messages that are displayed on a scrolling marquee and you can choose the screen saver display to be in tune with your mode and the music. It’s a nice idea, but one that will require you to have your PC at the centre of the party - something you may not be prepared to do.
The analog recorder is a nice addition and allows you to record an analog signal from a tape machine or Record player while the Sync & Go application offers an Avantgo styled service to Pocket PC Users.
This collection of programmes is obviously aimed at the newcomer to the world of XP with £15 to spare and with that positioning it is fairly good. However some of the programmes, such as the Alarm Clock feature, you can't help thinking that they are mere shareware products that you are having to pay for. There are perhaps one maybe two features here that you couldn't download for free elsewhere. Better still it would be nice if all of these features were simply included in the OS in the first place and again at only £15 it seems strange that they weren't.