Microsoft is giving users a taste of Vista in the just-released Windows Media Player 11 for Windows XP.

The user interface and features gives a preview of the experience of using Vista, with its new interface and closer tie-in to digital media. WMP11 includes enhanced search and media management for large audio libraries, and a “visually driven user interface”. It also supports a range of non-iPod, Windows-friendly portable media players – including the upcoming Zune.

The main window features six tabs for different viewing options, including one that offers seamless integration with URGE, MTV’s digital music service. This could becoming irritating if URGE isn’t your music service of choice.

The visually driven interface does echo iTunes’ appearance using thumbnail and album art. Device management has changed with a shuffle sync and reverse sync options.

WMP11 can also rip audio CDs in WMA, MP3 and WAV format. The software is available as a free download from Microsoft’s website for users of Windows XP, and requires a validation process to install.