In a recent blog post, Microsoft has revealed that they intend to not only leave out Windows Media Center from standard issues of Windows 8, but even leave out the ability to play DVDs at all. Their explanation is that, quite frankly, they don’t see people using it enough to include the function in the basic package. To quote Microsoft:
The media landscape has changed quite significantly since the release of Windows 7. Our telemetry data and user research shows us that the vast majority of video consumption on the PC and other mobile devices is coming from online sources such as YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, or any of the other myriad of online and downloadable video services available … On the PC, these online sources are growing much faster than DVD & broadcast TV consumption, which are in sharp decline
In a nutshell, Microsoft says DVDs are no longer relevant for PC media playback. However, if you’re the kind of person interested in a set-top box for your TV and home entertainment system, Microsoft will offer Media Center complete with DVR and DVD capability as an add-on Media Center Pack that can be purchased afterwards. The question is, why remove and start charging extra for something that previous iterations of Windows did for free? The answer probably has to do with licensing. Much of the software needed for video playback is intellectual property that Microsoft needs to license for inclusion in their software. But if a vast majority of PC users are never using the ones involved in DVD playback anymore, that’s a lot of per-purchase licensing that is costing MS money for no good reason.
Fair enough, Microsoft, but what about those of us who do still watch DVDs on our PCs? I may not use it on my desktop much anymore, but my laptop doubles as a portable entertainment center when I travel. Many users may be turned off to this idea, unwilling to purchase additional add-on packs and seeing Windows 8 as a downgrade to what they currently have. But before we get all tied up over this, I’d like to admit something. I only recently discovered that Windows Media Player has DVD support built in at all. That’s because almost every computer I ever purchased came with some sort of third-party DVD player software bundled in, such as PowerDVD, that usually kicks in by default. On top of that, I always have the excellent and free VLC player installed for playing back all kinds of content Windows Media Player chokes on. When I insert a DVD right now, the autoplay that pops up asks me which of the three installed programs I would like to use (Windows Media Player, PowerDVD, or VLC player). It’s not hard to empathize with Microsoft’s view that this support is completely redundant. Instead of asking why Microsoft took it away, I think a better question would be why they ever offered such unnecessary support in the first place. If someone prefer’s the Microsoft version, it’s available for that extra charge, but I see no reason for it to be automatically included on every version of Windows 8.
Now, if only Microsoft would feel the same way about Internet Explorer.