AnandTech has been covering the Home Theater PC space since those halcyon days when Windows XP Media Center was rolling out, and the era of dual-core Pentiums promised tolerable playback of DVD-quality AVI files. Despite our, and your, enthusiasm, Microsoft dropped hints throughout the product’s various iterations that Media Center’s role in Windows 8 was minimal. As the Building Windows blog was updated we saw promises that Media Center would be there, but with little in the way of details. And in their latest post, the Windows 8 team reveals the new face of Media Center. 

Yeah. We know. The new Media Center is the old Media Center, wholesale. In the post regarding SKUs, the Windows 8 team announced that Media Center would not be included in any of the Windows 8 releases, but would be available for Windows 8 Pro users as an add-on. The add-on will be the same experience found in Windows 7, with no apparent additions. Why take such an apathetic approach to Media Center? Usage.

In data Microsoft published last year, Media Center was launched by 6% of Windows 7 users. For a feature to have such low usage, 10 years after it was first introduced, means that whatever efforts to gain traction have failed, and further efforts are unlikely to have great success. So, deprecating Media Center to the level of a near-orphaned feature is not surprising in the slightest. What was unexpected was the deprecation of audio codecs and DVD playback to the Media Center Pack as well. Codec licensure is something the public can generally ignore, but it’s the reason DVD players will never cost a penny, and why the original Xbox required a dongle for playback. Since Windows XP Media Center, users have been paying for MPEG-2 and Dolby Digital decode support. With Vista, the audio side was bolstered with Dolby Digital Plus, and this was maintained in Windows 7. Windows 8 will not have DVD playback out of the box, though with the addition of the Media Center Pack will gain the appropriate licensure. 

mage courtesy of WinSource

News isn’t all bad on the media front for Windows 8, though MPEG-2 for the DVD containers is omitted, it is included for H.264 decoding, alongside Dolby Digital Plus support; all this intended to extend video streaming support. In the era of Ultrabooks and tablets, optical drives are on the decline, so omitting support for DVD-Video playback, and entirely ignoring BluRay support, is sensible. 

We had been considering doing a quick “State of the HTPC”-style piece, with a focus on the state of MCE and what changes to expect in Windows 8. Now we know, there’s not much to expect. So, instead we’ll plan to explore what competing software has been able to accomplish, particularly MythTV; and how well the latest CableCARD experience pans out. Don’t be surprised, though, if our HTPC software of choice remains Windows 7, well into the future. 

Source: Building Windows 8

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  • dagamer34 - Saturday, May 5, 2012 - link

    I would get angry and flustered at this removal, but it's obvious that Windows Media Center will never gain the same level of use as Windows Media Player or Internet Explorer. And it really makes no sense to pay for a DVD license when the future of computers is Ultrabook type machines.

    If anything, I just want to skip over the requirement of CableCards to direct IPTV-based platforms which rely only on an Internet connection and a login to work. Watching TV should be as stupidly simple as Netflix. Everything from now until then is just silly corporate bickering from people who want their cut of the pie.
  • A5 - Saturday, May 5, 2012 - link

    "Everything from now until then is just silly corporate bickering from people who want their cut of the pie."

    And massive technical issues. An IPTV network is a fundamentally different from a traditional cable network.
  • JKflipflop98 - Sunday, May 6, 2012 - link

    Technical issues? In the age of streaming media, that was about the lamest argument you could possibly pull out of the hat. Technical issues are at the bottom of the list as far as reasons we don't have IPTV. The #1 spot goes to "corporate greed by media executives".
  • Lerianis - Monday, May 14, 2012 - link

    Agreed there, JK. The bottom line is that 'technical issues' are not the problem, it is the greed of the people who make the TV shows and other things in question.

    They keep on wanting their farking DRM that does not stop ANY piracy and just drives people to 'pirated' things to not have to deal with the problems from DRM.
  • cknobman - Monday, May 7, 2012 - link

    I use media center on my server as a media extender for my crapbox 360's on multiple tv's throughout the house.

    That is the only way I am able to get my 360's to play certain file formats.

    Guess I wont be upgrading (my server at least) to Windows 8 anytime soon.
  • mcnabney - Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - link

    I wonder if anyone at Microsoft pointed out that 6% of Windows 7 users is 30 million? So Microsoft is telling a population about half the size of the global X-box 360 market to screw off.

    Their stupidity cruxified WHS2, essentially destroying the Home Server market that was steadily growing. And why? Let's get rid of Drive Extender and make the OS useless. And their reasons turned out to be complete lies, since they are putting drive extender in Win8. What percentage of Win7 installs use multiple hard drives? Probably less than 6%. I thought you could safely ignore such a small group? I would also point out that drive extender doesn't work well with the most common new configuration of multiple drives - an SSD and a magnetic. Those drives DON'T want to be pooled since you put very different things on each.

    Microsoft is going to blame others for their pending decline (like IE), but they are giving others an opportunity to drink their milkshake by doing stupid things like this. I'll keep Win7 around for a while, but it is unlikely to be replaced by more Microsoft stuff if this kind of crap continues. I have a habit of dragging dozens of other users with me - one of the reasons that Chrome is doing so well now.
  • Maiyr - Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - link

    "I have a habit of dragging dozens of other users with me - one of the reasons that Chrome is doing so well now."

    Now that is hilarious. Google should certainly bring you on-board as your 24 users have single-handedly boosted Chrome into the spotlight.

    That is the funniest shit I have read all day. ROFL

  • Lerianis - Monday, May 14, 2012 - link

    Actually, it's kinda true. The people who post on here are 'techies' and therefore are going to have a lot more weight than 'average Joe Schmoe' on the street with their families on tech issues.

    When I told MY family members to switch to Firefox, they did that.
  • killerb255 - Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - link

    Yes, but it's still a very narcissistic claim, reeking of "It's all about me, me, me, me, me!"
  • The Jedi - Friday, May 11, 2012 - link

    Preach own brother man.

    I get what you mean with their overall product quality with IE causing defections to Chrome. And I'm right there with you with MC7 and WHS.

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