UPDATE: Like many great Microsoft apps, Windows Media Professional Exhibitor is now long gone.
Microsoft has this unexplained habit of releasing free tools with no fanfare and little direction as to their purpose. A recent example of this is the Windows Media Professional Exhibitor. The app is designed for dual monitor usage, presumably optimized for situations where you want to play video content back on a projection screen while still being able to access a playlist of files on the machine controlling the video, which is perfect for laptop presentations or road warrior product shows. Specifically made available for exhibitors at NAB 2005, the app works well with video cards designed to handle DirectX Video Acceleration for playing back HD content. The installer interface is a little clunky, hiding an OK box behind a giant monitor indicator, which makes it a little confusing to install the app, but once you get past that little quirk, it works as expected, providing full screen playback of virtually any video you throw at it. On the control side of the equation, you are limited to adding video files to a playlist, creating new playlists and saving playlists. It provides a looping function so your videos start over at the beginning once you’ve cycled through all the content, which is another bonus for video playback on a conference floor. This is certainly one of the best ways to avoid the embarrassment of showing your desktop to a roomful of people. Be careful to check the video resolution before adding a file to the playlist though, the app only plays in full screen which means 320×240 video will get blown up to fill the screen on your 1024×768 projection. It could have been my perception, but video stretching seems to work better using this app than the native Windows Media Player 10 install, even though they are using the same video rendering software behind the scenes. The download is a bloated 25MB because the package includes .NET; in theory if you need the app, you’ve already got broadband. Hard to say if this thing will still be around post NAB, better grab it while you can. The download link is on the bottom right of the official NAB 2005 home for Windows Media. [Windows XP $0.00]