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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  • Penti - Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - link

    Actually Professional doesn't replace Enterprise/Ultimate it gains most features but not all of the new ones..
  • robinthakur - Thursday, May 10, 2012 - link

    Somewhat more amusingly, our MS representatives have been sending development diaries to us for the last year, teasing Windows 8 in a very excited way. Recently with the upcoming launch they have ben unable to contain their excitement and have invited a load of people to a executive preview of the software. Whilst I am personally not interested in it beyond seeing what it looks like, I ignored the email, only to find another one this week lamenting that interest was somewhat less than had been hoped for and pleading for more attendence.

    To me there is no reason to upgrade to Windows 8 beyond having the latest and greatest, but its not really designed for a desktop experience, which is how I would use it and certain features which I would use like WMC are severely compromised. What is worse is that MS are in severe and genuine danger of losing the interest of business in a bid to chase the consumer and business bucks which Apple has successfully won with the iPhone and iPad. Try showing anyone in business the benefits of the Windows 8 Metro interface on their dual 24" monitors, they don't really see the point, and I'm not sure there is one other than making it tablet friendly. Windows 7 works absolutely fine on a desktop and will do for some many years to come.
  • r3loaded - Sunday, May 6, 2012 - link

    They claim that they need to charge extra due to royalties for the codecs needed for playing DVDs and Blu-rays - but then come programs like MPC-HC and VLC can play them for free?
  • ET - Sunday, May 6, 2012 - link

    To quote Wikipedia: "At least one recent release of the VLC media player software is able to read video and audio data from DVDs that incorporate Content Scramble System (CSS) encryption, even though the VLC media player software lacks a CSS decryption license.[47] The unauthorized decryption of CSS-encrypted DVD content and/or the unauthorized distribution of CSS decryption tools may violate the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act"
  • MEZTEK - Monday, August 13, 2012 - link

    I am a LINUX GUY/ MythTV and now a Google TV tinkerer. So, I am the last person to defend Microsoft but don't you think that Microsoft is tired of having the Monkey (Movie/Entertainment Industry) on their backs. Have you seen what the Monkey has been doing to Google? Especially, now that HTLM5 is on the horizon. Maybe, this could be the right posture of Microsoft for now.

    This Monkey is the POKER that has all the OS's blazing with end user complaints. As we speak, DVD (which you never legally owned even after purchase) is being eliminated by the Monkey because they failed with software DRM. BlueRay is their last attempt to do it right (hardware). However, they discovered media streaming is much easier to protect the distribution thanks to the Millennium Digital rights act and their big brother FCC lawyers. It is also supported by the current regime of Cable/Network providers who monitor and throttle content.

    People should be more worried of what is going on the back end than worrying about the front end OS's.
  • gcoupe - Sunday, May 6, 2012 - link

    This article by Ed Bott gives useful background to the legal jungle:
  • ET - Monday, May 7, 2012 - link

    Thanks for the link.

    I just built an HTPC and it uses 7 and will continue to. Due to some problems and lack of time to sort them it's still mainly used to play DVD's, so good thing Windows 7 comes with that.

    My main PC is still using Vista, but I will probably upgrade to 7 in the coming months, to celebrate the release of 8. (Well, actually because I finally caved in and I'm getting an SSD.) I figure I'll continue using 7 for a few years (given that I stuck to Vista until now even though I had a Windows 7 license since its release).
  • Taft12 - Monday, May 7, 2012 - link

    Well then Windows 8 should cost less than Windows 7, right? Riiiight
  • dananski - Sunday, May 6, 2012 - link

    Any word on the price of this "Pro Pack"? Can we expect Win 8 to be cheaper than previous editions as a result?

    It occurs to me there's a whole load of features that many windows users don't use or know about. Why not make the whole OS more modular and get the base cost down? Maybe sell Professional with all the usual extras it provides, with a discount over buying them separately?
  • MrSpadge - Sunday, May 6, 2012 - link

    With that market thingy established they could move to a much more modular architecture: offer an enterprise and a relatively cheap home edition with basic functionality, then offer individual features for a few bucks each, so that if you choose thme all you'd end up at the current typical OS price. Offer demo version of the features as well.

    Not sure I'd prefer this over the current approach, though. And many MS tools offered this way would face more fierce competition from freeware tools.. which is not what Ms wants.

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