Microsoft has released Windows Media Player 9 for Mac OS X.

The company says that the new version of its player "opens the world of Windows Media 9 content to Macintosh users, enabling them to access the best audio and video on the Web".

The release also means Mac users can use content digitized using the standard, and promises them access to iTunes Music Store competitor services such as Napster in the US, and OD2 in Europe.

Microsoft is facing antitrust investigation in Europe for bundling its media player with its operating system here, which critics say means it is extending its desktop dominance into new industries.

The release sports a brushed-steel look to match OS X. Plug-in support allows media files to be played from within Internet Explorer, Netscape and Apple's Safari browser, and it also plays secure content protected with Microsoft Windows Media Rights Manager version 1.3.

Other new features include: three additional Skins, including a mini-skin for audio-only; support for local and streamed Windows media files; ASX version 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 parsing, UDP, TCP/IP, HTTP and multicast streaming; and protocol automatic ordering and rollover.

WMP 9 offers limited Windows Media Download support – it will not display ICP skins, only playback of audio/video, and neither does it support Apple files such as .avi.

Version 9 supports OS X 10.2 and upwards, including Panther. The company will continue to offer version 7.1 for older Macs.

Meanwhile, Roxio CEO Chris Gorog has responded to Apple's statement that iTunes Music Store outsold Roxio's new Napster service by five-to-one in the week of October 28. He told TechNewsWorld: "As soon as we get the word out to consumers that Napster is back, We expect it will significantly impact our growth. We would also expect to be taking away market share from Apple on a weekly basis."

Gorog also suggested that Apple's figures from Nielsen SoundScan "did not include Napster's results".

He said: "Apple's claim of 80 per cent market share was reduced to 62 per cent when Napster's 23 per cent was considered. In our first week, we did 36 per cent of Apple's business, which we think is an extraordinary start for us."