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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  • OldPueblo - Friday, May 11, 2012 - link

    I use cablecard with media center to pipe TV to three separate xbox's in the house. The xbox doesn't extend any other TV system that I'm aware of so thanks I guess for putting a brick wall on it?
  • saishowaguu - Sunday, May 13, 2012 - link

    Unless vendors are actively going to be informing consumers that Win8 will not play DVD's out of the box, there may be some serious backlash.
    I know that a lot of PC companies bundle software like WinDVD, but some do not. And what about companies who deploy clean OS installs? Will they also now need to include a separate software in the deployment package just for this?
    I wonder how much of a price difference per license it would be if Microsoft included this feature in Win8? $2? $5? $10?
  • MrReclusive - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - link

    don't know if anyone remembers, but windows xp did not play dvd's either.
    i work in IT and a allot of our clients still use xp, i have to send out a codec pack via group policy for xp to play dvd's
    and on a personal note, i never use windows media player to play dvd's so this is not an issue for me.

    however i do use windows media center religiously. i have an htpc in the living room, garage, and bedroom. but windows media center in itself is kinda horrible, if it wasn't for the plugins i wouldn't use it.
    i may use media center as the core, but 98% of the time I'm actually in the media browser addon

    i have tried xbmc, jriver, media portal, boxee, etc. and i still always go back to WMC and media browser.

    yes i am a little irritated that WMC is going to be extra, but I'm hoping it works out for the better.
    wmc has looked the same since XPMCE, im hoping if people buy the program they work more on making it better.
    i want a better and more customizable UI, and allot more customization.
  • MrReclusive - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - link

    im sure it wont be hard to copy WMC from 7 to 8..
  • TheJian - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - link

    Leave it in or drop the price $20 per version.

    Or is this just like our games, where they raise the price from $40-60, screw you out of your manuals/box, etc.

    All these things that supposedly reduce the cost only end up costing more while we get less. For example: CD Projekt made the WITCHER 2 with NO DRM (saves MONEY correct?). Yet for all the expense DRM is supposed to cost, the WITCHER 2 came out at the same price as every other DRM INFESTED game on the planet at $60. What happened to the savings? Small developer with little to no corp overhead, and still no savings. I did not buy this game. I buy a lot of GOG stuff, but refuse to pay full price for something that should be cheaper to sell to me since the cost of DRM isn't in the game. Downloadable too so no media/box. Why wasn't it $40? Do we have any estimates of what DRM costs? What does it cost to put securom on a game (assuming $60, how much of that price is DRM?)? DVD's aren't going anywhere, windows should be able to launch a dvd...Jeez. A $300 OS can't run a movie? Start Menu is gone? When did Microsoft decide it was OK to go BACKWARDS in development?

    Nearly everything added to this junk OS will only slow you down. I've yet to see anything I can do quicker in Win8 than I can in Win7 (and neither holds a candle to XP 64, with drivers still being updated by NV/AMD etc..). I hope this OS dies a quick death. IT nightmares will ensue if not.
  • Denithor - Thursday, May 17, 2012 - link

    Windows 8 shaping up to be the next Vista.

    Seems like every other Windows launch seriously sucks. 98 wasn't too bad, ME sucked, XP was good, Vista sucked, 7 is good, etc.
  • Grandpa - Sunday, May 20, 2012 - link

    Is it me or is Windows 8 trying to eliminate the RIGHT CLICK from the UI? Just opinion based on what I've read about it. I've never used it. Is this a fair statement?
  • snake4812 - Monday, May 21, 2012 - link

    Isn't the 6% number based on people who agree to report their usage to Microsoft or whatever.

    Just a hunch but I would assume the vast majority of people using WMC regularly are the exact types of people that never agree to that stuff
  • mcquade181 - Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - link

    Good point, I think you are correct.
    Mind you, even 6% of 500 million is 30 million which is still an awful lot of customers to piss off.

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