It was already known that Windows Media Center would be sold as an extra feature for Windows 8, and now Microsoft has announced it will not offer the CODECs needed to play DVDs on the Windows Media Player in Windows 8.
In a blog post, the company cited the changing landscape for optical disc vs. on-demand streaming video, the cost of decoder licensing, and the importance of a straight forward edition plan to remove Windows Media Center from the base installation and make it available to Windows 8 customers via the ‘Add Features to Windows 8’ function. They haven’t disclosed the fee yet.
“Windows Media Player will continue to be available in all editions, but without DVD playback support. 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,” the company wrote.
This has more than a few people a little upset, but on balance, it’s hardly cause for hitting the panic button. Microsoft likes to remove software when it feels there is a third party market out there. For example, it hasn’t offered an email client since Vista, even though it has Live Mail and Outlook, Mozilla offers Thunderbird, and there are many more.
There are plenty of Windows 7-capable CODECs for free download and commercial DVD playback software on the market. Many DVD-ROM drives sold on the market come with DVD playback software included for free and most laptop manufacturers pre-install some type of free DVD playback software as part of their “bloatware” on new laptops as well.
Not only is this a cost savings move for Microsoft, it’s also a recognition that the Xbox has become the center of the entertainment universe, says Van Baker, research vice president for mobility at Gartner. It has Netflix and streaming video support and is usually hooked up to an HDTV set, after all.
“I think Microsoft has probably made a conscious decision that the device in the living room is going to be the Xbox and they are increasing their focus on anything entertainment related to the Xbox. So I’m not entirely surprised by [Microsoft’s decision]. It’s not like Media Center PCs were hugely popular,” he said.
Baker doesn’t think this will hurt the DVD format on the PC. “There’s this comfort factor people have and notebook manufacturers are reticent to move away from that. Even though people say optical media is worthless in PCs I think it’ll be a couple more years before we see them disappear,” he said.