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Windows Media Center To Cost Extra in Windows 8

Windows Media Center, Microsoft's consumer entertainment application, will become an an optional add-on cost for Windows 8 users instead of a built-in component, Microsoft said last week.

Media Center is designed to be an entertainment hub for PCs that pulls together music, movies and TV. Since Windows XP, Media Center has been included in Windows at no-cost. However, with the arrival of Windows 8, possibly as early as this fall, Microsoft will begin to charge users to get Media Center.

Media Center will be available in two ways: Either it will be preinstalled by original equipment manufacturers on a device or it will be accessible as an optional upgrade to Windows 8. Users will be able to install it on their copy of Windows 8 via the "add features" function of the OS.

Media Center will be available to users of the Windows 8 and Windows Pro editions for x86/x64 devices. Availability on the Enterprise edition of Windows 8 wasn't mentioned in Microsoft's announcement, but organizations buying that edition (which is only available with Software Assurance) presumably won't want to include such a consumer-oriented app.

Likewise, Microsoft's announcement omitted details about whether Media Center will be available to Windows RT users. "Windows RT" is Microsoft's new name for Windows 8 running on ARM devices.

Microsoft hasn't determined what the costs for Media Center on Windows 8 will be yet. However, Microsoft said those details will be available closer to the time of product release. The company may have decided to charge for Media Center because of some associated licensing costs, since the announcement pointed to "the cost of decoder licensing" as a factor.

No DVD Support in Windows Media Player
Windows Media Player, which is a separate application from Media Center that's used for video and audio playback, will not have DVD playback support in Windows 8, according to Microsoft's announcement. Moreover, users of Windows RT devices won't even be able to use Windows Media Player as it will be an omitted component of that OS. Microsoft announced last month that Windows Media Player won't be available on Windows RT devices at all, but it did not explain why. "Windows RT" is Microsoft's new name for its ARM-based version of Windows 8.

Currently, DVD playback is supported in Windows Media Player 12 on Windows 7. Microsoft's dropping of DVD playback support in Windows Media Player on Windows 8 may be associated with decoder licensing costs, but Microsoft's announcement didn't provide an explanation.

As for how Windows 8 users will play DVDs on their machines, Microsoft appears to be saying that it will leave those issues to third-party vendors.

"For optical discs playback on new Windows 8 devices, we are going to rely on the many quality solutions on the market, which provide great experiences for both DVD and Blu-ray," Microsoft's announcement explained.

Dolby Audio Support in Windows 8
On the audio side, Windows 8 will support "Dolby Digital Plus 5.1-channel decoding and Dolby Digital two-channel encoding," according to an announcement issued this week by Dolby Laboratories. That audio support will be available on PCs and tablets that run Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro and Windows RT editions.

The Dolby audio support will work "right out of the box" with streaming video, as well as with home videos recorded with Dolby Digital Plus, according to Tami Reller, Microsoft's chief financial officer and chief marketing officer for the Windows Division, in a released statement.

Developers can add Dolby sound to their applications using Windows 8 APIs for either Metro-style or desktop apps.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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Reader Comments

Sat, May 12, 2012 Frances US

I rarely add comments to this publication. This article is so incredible shocking that I must say something! When Windows Media Center hit the market there wasn’t any way for a consumer to purchase a PC that wasn’t per-installed with the Windows Media Center OS. Yet tech support for the system was limited to hardware. Microsoft’s stood on the principle that the Media Center was not supported by Microsoft, every consumer had to go back to the OEM for help. Of course even if you purchased a warranty the OEM techs were qualified for hardware only. Clearly Microsoft used Sonic and Cyberlink as a third party opt out when it came to support. Any issues regarding the use of the Media Center or the Media Center Remote Control (also controlled by software as well as drivers) was just as elusive to the OEM Techs. It has never been part of the OEM’s Tech job to support their products past the proprietary hardware. With the introduction of Windows 7 from Home Premium through Windows 7 Ultimate which have given a complete integration of Media Center capabilities along with Windows Media player. Windows Ready Play DVD program and Disc writing capabilities has been a breath of fresh air. In most cases Sonic and Cyberlink rarely install software that carries a certificate past the first year a system purchase. The software is never updated. Needless to say on 64bit systems this can be a nightmare. I usually suggest removal of both software programs and just use what Windows provides. Or make the jump to a full version of a program that can provide the extended capabilities. Please help me understand the reasoning behind making Media Center an additional option. In addition you are going back to old days of Windows Media Center and making the OEM’s responsible for the software operations. What makes Microsoft believe that this lack of support from either the OEM techs or Microsoft is in any way a forward think development? Why are you doing this to us? NOT all IT’s work exclusively with servers. Some of us believe that if the Server was sold to a business. That business has an owner or Manager with a family and a PC in every room. I make it my job to understand personal systems a completely as DC’s. After all I want my customers to feel I care about any software or hardware I suggest. So in conclusions if this is your final design for Windows 8 I want to thank you for making my job a future nightmare. I have a very special compassion for OEM Techs on the other end of the phone with a consumer blasting them with the inoperability of a warranted system purchased from their company due to software issues that will extend from recording, movie streaming, and online music.

Mon, May 7, 2012

Charge extra for Media Center, chop DVD playback out of Media Player, and don't have Media Player at all in RT? What else will Microsoft do to discourage people from upgrading to Win8? Oh, I know - disable all plugin support from the browser in RT -- Oh, wait, they already did that...

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