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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 senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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