Web audio and video is a mess. There’s no standard for either audio or video. The de facto standard, Adobe’s Flash, once was ubiquitous (but no longer ships on new Macs) but is on the way out. What’s coming to replace it? HTML5 and new audio and video standards. Once the major players like Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla can agree on what they are.
In the meantime, Apple’s QuickTime is the jack of all media formats. Except for those QuickTime does not play, including the all important Windows Media Video and Audio file formats. While many websites are moving quickly away from Flash and toward HTML5 and H.264 as a standard (still not supported by all browsers), plenty of sites features audio and video in Windows Media format.
How can you play Windows Media audio and video on your Mac?
The answer is a free app called Flip4Mac, also billed as the official Windows Media player on the Mac (because Microsoft dropped support of Windows Media Player for the Mac many years ago).
What Flip4Mac does is rather elegant and very useful. It integrates within QuickTime or functions as a standalone player and plays those pesky Windows Media files.
While Flip4Mac comes with three commercial versions that start at $29 and end at $179 for Studio Pro HD, the free version simply plays video and audio. The commercial versions can also convert WMV and WMA files to QuickTime and other formats.
For Mac users with Microsoft’s PowerPoint or Apple’s Keynote, Flip4Mac also lets presentations display and play Windows Media files. Avoid converting Windows Media files for Mail or iMovie. Both audio and video will play nicely in each.
Until the major media players can agree on a standard for audio and video files, and everyone begins using the standards (Mozilla, I’m looking at you), we’ll be required to tack on add ons and plugins to make media play nice nice.