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Sinofsky Explains Lack Of DVD Playback and Built-In Media Center In Windows 8

Radford C. May 5, 2012 0

Microsoft’s President of Windows Division Steven Sinofsky has been under fire lately and it’s pretty understandable why when you see words like “No DVD supported” or “Media Center not included” on press headlines everywhere. Since the uprising, Sinofsky pushed out a post regarding these decisions.

On the Windows 8 blog, Sinofsky justifies the move by claiming that TV and DVD use on PCs are “in sharp decline,” and that the software giant would have to spend “a significant amount in royalties” to offer support for optical media going forward.

So how will future owners of Windows 8 PC be able to play DVDs? Well, it probably won’t be very hard. Assuming Windows 8 PCs are anything like Windows 7 ones, every consumer PC that comes with an optical drive is likely to have bundled DVD software. We’re unsure how the PC manufacturers feel about this but our guess is either angry or very happy. We’re guessing the later as most manufacturers get to make use of the players they’ve made for the PCs for years. Sinofsky has also noted that it is “ultimately an OEM choice for what peripherals and software to include in a given system”.

In any case, Sinofsky gets into the mix by breaking down the reasons for the decision in the post “FAQ – DVD playback and Windows Media Center in Windows 8”. Of all the questions and answers posted in the blog, we pull the main questions over why the decision was made.

Windows 8 FAQ Excerpts on DVD Playback/Media Center

Why can’t I just pay for DVD when I need it?
When we have DVD playback capabilities in software broadly like in Windows 7, there is no way to distinguish whether the PC will ever play a DVD disc but still this cost is carried on every PC. While we might think that the best solution is some sort of “just in time” charge back to Microsoft based on telemetry or an “anytime upgrade” this is not how the third-party licensing programs work as described above. So there isn’t an approach where you buy Windows or a PC and only “pay as you go” if DVD playback is provided “in the box”. Once it is distributed as a player, a license is required.

Will devices with Windows 8 pre-installed be able to play DVDs out of the box?
This is ultimately an OEM choice for what peripherals and software to include in a given system. If a new device has an optical drive, it will most likely include necessary software and licenses making it a seamless experience to the vast majority of customers. Similarly, an add-on optical drive (internal or external) will almost certainly come with DVD playback software unless you intentionally purchase a white label drive (which might be a perfectly reasonable choice if the drive is simply for loading software). In all cases, there are numerous complete third-party applications that provide a broad range of support that is properly licensed. On the other hand, the ecosystem won’t have to pay for that software and related royalties on devices such as tablets, small form factor desktops, and laptops that are sold without optical drives.

What if I upgrade to Windows 8 on my current Windows 7 PC with a DVD drive?
If there is existing third-party playback software the Windows Upgrade Assistant will help determine if this software is compatible with Windows 8 and you will have the option to keep it during the upgrade to Windows 8. Otherwise, you will need to acquire third-party playback software after the upgrade to play DVDs. Alternatively, you can acquire the Windows 8 Media Center Pack or the Windows 8 Pro Pack post upgrade. Both Packs include Windows Media Center, including the ability to play DVDs.

Why can’t I buy a Windows 8 device that includes Windows Media Center pre-installed?
With the evolution of device form factors (tablets, thin and light, etc., none of which have optical drives) and change in media consumption patterns from optical disks and broadcast TV to online (Netflix, Youtube, Hulu, etc.), we concluded that we would no longer make DVD and broadcast TV capabilities available in all Windows editions, simply because the feature applies to a decreasing number of PCs sold. Instead, those capabilities will be available only to customers that want it via Add Windows Feature (aka Windows Anytime Upgrade). This ensures that the costs associated with playing DVDs and watching broadcast TV on PCs only apply to devices that have those capabilities and customers that want it.

Are you adding another Windows 8 edition called “Windows 8 Pro with Media Center”?
The Windows 8 Pro edition that includes Media Center will be named and branded Windows 8 Pro. The only difference is that it will include Media Center and you will also find a different string in the system properties where it will say “Windows 8 Pro with Media Center”. This is not a new edition of Windows 8.

Why do I have to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro to get Media Center?
Trends in Media Center usage show a decline in the number of customers that use it on a regular basis, starting from a relatively small base as we previously blogged about. When we look at actual usage, most customers using Media Center and playing DVDs used Windows Ultimate and XP Pro/Media Center. We believe those customers will also be interested in the additional features provided in the Windows 8 Pro edition, such as Boot from VHD, Client Hyper-V, etc., especially if they are using Media Center on a PC used for general tasks. Considering the audience and current usage, we conclude the vast majority of Media Center customers upgrading to Windows 8 will be to the Windows 8 Pro edition. In our efforts to keep the Windows 8 editions plan as simple as possible, Windows Media Center is only available on Windows 8 Pro. If you already have Windows 8 Pro and want to add Media Center, you just need to acquire the additional Media Center Pack as an in-place upgrade available via Add Windows Features (formerly Windows Anytime Upgrade).

VentureBeat provided an interesting commentary where they say the move “makes total sense” that’s worth reading.

Via »Windows 8 Blog