Microsoft has just announced their plans for Windows Media Center, the company's full screen media interface. Windows Media Center includes tool to watch and record TV broadcasts, and options to watch videos, view photos and listen to music using the software. And thanks to plug-in support, Media Center users get also access to third party services like Netflix.
Media Center was included in many versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7, but things do not look this bright when it comes to Media Center support for Microsoft's upcoming operating system Windows 8.
According to a recent blog post at the official Building Windows 8 website, Windows Media Center will not be integrated into any version of Windows 8. Users do however have the option to purchase an upgrade, to add the functionality to their system.
Given the changing landscape, the cost of decoder licensing, and the importance of a straight forward edition plan, we’ve decided to make Windows Media Center available to Windows 8 customers via the Add Features to Windows 8 control panel (formerly known as Windows Anytime Upgrade). This ensures that customers who are interested in Media Center have a convenient way to get it. 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.
As you can see, Windows 8 Pro users need to acquire and install the Windows 8 Media Center Pack via the Add Features to Windows 8 dialog to add Media Center to their version of the operating system. Windows 8 (regular) users need to acquire the Windows 8 Pro Pack to do the same.
Microsoft did not comment yet on the pricing of the upgrade - which could be quite high especially for users who are running the standard version of Windows 8, as they would end up with Windows 8 Pro with Media Center included.
You may have noticed that Microsoft mentioned that Windows Media Player won't support DVD playback under Windows 8. It is also interesting to note that Media Player won't support DVD playback even if the system is upgraded to Windows 8 Pro with Media Center.
The core reason for this change in strategy are licensing fees that Microsoft has to pay to support features such as DVD playback in the operating system.
Making Windows Media Center a paid upgrade complicates matters significantly. Users who want the functionality first need to upgrade the operating system to do so. It will also be interesting to see if Microsoft will make the upgrade available to customers from all over the world, or limit the option to customers from select countries. If you look at the supported countries for the Anytime Upgrade under Windows 7, you will notice that only a handful of countries are supported by it.
Windows 7 users who upgrade to Windows 8 may lose functionality. They first may notice that Media Center is not included in the new operating system anymore, and second that Media Player can't play back DVDs anymore.
What's your take on the decision?
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