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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  • NMiksu - Sunday, May 6, 2012 - link

    Twisting some numbers, 6% sounds low but 30 million doesn't. Given that the install base of Windows 7 is more than 500 million, 6% of that is quite a many users.
  • gcoupe - Sunday, May 6, 2012 - link

    Even if it is 7.5 million users (25% of the total who actually use WMC, as measured by Microsoft), then Microsoft couldn't care less. It's not what they want to do, so forget it.
  • zlandar - Sunday, May 6, 2012 - link

    I'm part of that 6%. Win 8 is DOA for me.
  • jeffkro - Sunday, May 6, 2012 - link

    You're going to have to pull win7 out of my cold dead hands.

    Seriously I think win7 is going to stick around as stubbornly as winXP. I haven't read of anything that doesn't sound like a worse change from win7 to win8. It might be good for tablets but for desktops and laptops it sounds like a stinker to me.
  • jeffkro - Sunday, May 6, 2012 - link

    Actually if it were just a matter of de-buddling everything from the basic OS I wouldn't have a problem with it. If you just download the add ons you use it should give your install a smaller footprint. But if MS charging nominal fees for everything or stops supporting these add ons its going to be a real bummer.
  • daniel142005 - Monday, May 7, 2012 - link

    Have you actually used it? because I said the same until I said screw it and I installed the preview. The Metro UI being the start menu takes some getting used to, and it takes some learning, but Windows 8 feels much better than Windows 7. We also don't know how much they will be priced for yet, so everyone that's complaining really has no grounds yet. If the price of Windows 8 is the same as previous versions then yes, it will likely see few upgrades.
  • ET - Monday, May 7, 2012 - link

    In what way does Windows 8 feel better? I only ran it in a VM, so obviously my experience was skewed by that.
  • JNo - Sunday, May 6, 2012 - link

    "So, instead we’ll plan to explore what competing software has been able to accomplish, particularly MythTV"

    Could you also look at what XBMC has to offer as it is a leading, powerful, slick and easy to use competitor in this space. Oh, and it's FREE and has accomplished an awful lot.
  • CityZen - Sunday, May 6, 2012 - link

    And could you take a look at MediaPortal ( too? Together with XBMC I think they're the ones to beat in the HTPC space. And maybe include NextPVR ( also.
  • JasonInofuentes - Sunday, May 6, 2012 - link

    Guys, guys, I'm only one man. No, seriously, we'll take a look at everything we can. Please send me any specific requests at the e-mail at the top of the post.


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