Microsoft has announced that the Media Center player that some bloggers have noted is not included in test versions of Windows 8 will not be included in release versions either. In a new blog post, MS has said that Media Center will be an 'option' for Win 8 and that they don't see a native CD/DVD player as part of 'the future of entertainment in Windows.'
What does this mean? It could mean a lot of things. For now, it means that standard Windows packages will not include built-in DVD or CD playback. Microsoft does say that they are 'excited' about the 'future of entertainment in Windows,' however, which may mean that they're either working on a new (secret) version of Media Center or that they're moving towards streaming content deals with providers like Netflix, Google Play, Amazon Prime and so on.
=== Media Center Already in Trouble
This doesn't mean Media Center won't be available at all for Windows 8 users, though. Those who upgrade to the Media Center or Pro Pack options will have it. MS says that licensing costs for the playback modules are a part of the reason that adding MC will cost more - but that has never been a problem before.
What is known is that the current edition of Media Center is pretty much as far as the Redmond giant plans to take it. The MC development team was disbanded and most of its members sent to other departments, leaving the old media player in an oudated cubbyhole where it gets little attention.
It also means that a lot of Windows users in the future may be disappointed when their PC doesn't immediately play media CDs or DVDs inserted into the drive. Expect a boom in after-market, third-party apps to hit once Windows 8 machines begin shipping later this year or early next. Some OEMs selling media-specific machines may include a non-Microsoft option as well.
Gone will be the days of inserting a DVD into the drive and having Media Center pop up automatically to play it for you.
=== Why Drop Media Support?
Why would Microsoft even consider this? Most likely, it's money. By shaving off the cost of paying licensing fees to Dolby and others for playback options on movies and music, Microsoft can sell original equipment manufacturer (OEM) discs for a few dollars cheaper. Computer sellers like Dell and Hewlett-Packard almost assuredly see this as a bonus to them, since even a few pennies off of a disc multiplied by a million or more computers adds up quickly.
So how much are we talking about here? Microsoft says '.. in line with marginal costs.' This most likely means that Microsoft won't be charging too much extra for the Media Center Pack upgrade. Officially, prices have not been announced for anything regarding Windows 8 and probably won't be until we get very close to a launch date.
Microsoft has made a big push into the cloud and having legacy apps like MC on board hinders that. With more and more of our computing and use (especially as MS seems to see it) going online and off-system, it's not too surprising that they would make decisions like this. One thing missing, however, is consumer consideration: we've grown used to our PCs automatically playing things when we put them into the drive.
When that goes away, I suspect a lot of support calls at OEMs will be fielded when customers start calling in to ask why they can't play a movie on their computer. How much money will HP and Dell really save in the long run?