Microsoft has released the next generation of its Media Player software for Windows.

Windows Media Player 11.0 for Windows XP features a buffed-up user interface custom-designed to work with MTV's Urge digital music catalogue in the US.

With two million songs from more than 110,000 artists, Urge is part of Microsoft's plan to combat Apple, which to date has been the dominant player in the digital music market. Urge costs about the same as Apple's iTunes – typically $0.99 (about 52p) per song and $9.99 (£5.26) per album – but unlike iTunes, the service also offers unlimited downloads for $9.95 per month.

Urge songs will not play on Apple's iPod, but with Windows Media Player installed on the vast majority of PC desktops, analysts say Microsoft could finally give Apple some serious competition – provided that the Urge network integration works as well as advertised.

Media Player 11.0 also has a few new bells and whistles for Windows users, including an audio fingerprinting capability that can recognise mislabelled media files, better search capabilities, and an easier-to-use navigation system.

Users can download the software for free at Microsoft's website. Additional UK services are expected with the release of Windows Vista.

We've got the first UK review here.