Between growing online video consumption and declining broadcast TV & DVD consumption on PCs, along with the royalty costs in providing codecs to decode this content, Microsoft has decided to make its Windows Media Center product a separate premium add-on pack, titled “Windows 8 Media Center pack”. This pack will be available to Windows 8 Pro customers, priced at what Microsoft claims will be in-line with marginal costs. Windows 8 (home version) customers will need to purchase the Windows 8 Pro pack, which comes bundled with Media Center.
Following user and telemetry data research conducted by Microsoft, they found that the vast majority of video consumption on computers and mobile devices come from online sources such as YouTube, Netflix and other TV-on-Demand services. They also claim that DVD and broadcast TV consumption are in sharp decline, with online services growing rapidly. According to IHS Screen Digest research, online movie consumption will overtake physical video in 2012.
The Windows Media Player and Windows 8 Pro packs will be available via the “Add Features to Windows 8” control pack, formerly known as “Windows Anytime Upgrade” in Windows Vista/7. Both Windows 8 editions will continue to include Windows Media Player, along with native video decoding support for H264, VC-1, WMV and MPEG4 video as well as AAC, WMA, MP3, PCM and Dolby Digital Plus audio.
DVD playback will no longer be supported in Windows Media Player, however, users can also use third party software for DVD and Blu-ray playback, such as Cyberlink’s and WinDVD’s player software. Those looking to play other formats such as MKV, OGG, FLAC, QuickTime, etc. will need to obtain codec packages to decode these formats like with earlier Windows versions.
It’s not clear why Microsoft has chosen to only make this add-on available to Windows 8 Pro, considering that most home users will not have the Windows 8 Pro version and also that very few companies allow staff to watch broadcast TV or DVDs on their workplace computers anyway. If Microsoft wants to avoid giving Windows Media Center fans a good reason not to upgrade to Windows 8, they should seriously make the Windows 8 Media Center Pack available to Windows 8 home users.