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Microsoft To Charge for Media Center in Windows 8

Microsoft on Thursday further clarified the status of its Media Center consumer entertainment application in the forthcoming Windows 8 operating system.

Windows Media Center is a kind of entertainment hub for PC users that pulls together TV, movies and music. It has been a no-cost component of Windows extending back to Windows XP. However, things will change a bit when Windows 8 arrives, perhaps by this fall. At that time, Media Center will be an optional add-on cost for users.

Microsoft To Charge for 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, those details will be available closer to the time of product release, according to the company's announcement. Microsoft 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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Tue, Oct 2, 2012 DarthDana

So, win 8 on portable devices (tablets, phones, media players) won't be able to play music and videos? Who's the idiot that came up with that idea?

Thu, Sep 20, 2012 madscijr

With stiff competition in the tablet space from Apple & Google, I don't understand why MS would pull the rug out with a free media player (not to mention all the functionality you get referencing the DLLs from your Powerpoint & Office VBA macros). I know money is tight and all - the best way to pull ahead is to offer more for less. That was what made it easy for me to switch from Mac to Windows in the 90s. If MS adds free Media Player to RT, it'll sell more units. If they can somehow add a Win32 API plugin to run legacy apps in RT, it'll make an even stronger case for people on a budget to purchase one.

Mon, May 7, 2012 Dana

I've been running Win8 on a test machine since the Developers Preview and, so far, all I see is that iit provides nothing above and beyond what Win7 has and, in reality, takes a lot of things away.

Mon, May 7, 2012 Jason

The Linksys device is hardly "current"; it's 4 years old and doesn't work with the current (i.e. win7) media center. Near as I can tell, the only supported media extender you can get today is an Xbox 360.

Sat, May 5, 2012 AS147

Three questions.
1. Will windows media centre support current media extenders such as the Linksys DMA 2200?
2. Will it support the dvr-ms format or wtv only
3. What media types will it support inaddition to their own?

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