Through the years, Microsoft has slowly added pervasive digital media functionality to its Windows operating systems. The unfairly maligned Windows Millennium Edition (Me) release was the first to include such digital media technologies as the all-in-one Windows Media Player (WMP) 7 and Windows Movie Maker. Subsequent versions of these programs are more interesting and powerful, and of course Microsoft has imbued Windows Vista with its most sophisticated digital media solutions yet. Sadly, the company's first DVD movie making effort, the predictably named Windows DVD Maker, is as lackluster as were the first versions of WMP and Movie Maker.
Understanding Windows DVD Maker: Windows DVD Maker is a simple, wizard-based application for creating DVD movies that consist of one of more videos and/or a single photo slideshow with optional musical accompaniment. As such, it's both incredibly easy to use and pretty limited. Both of these were by design: As it did with other digital media activities, Microsoft moved very slowly and cautiously into DVD making out of the belief that most consumers would simply be too confused by an application that duplicated the functionality of commercial DVD making solutions. Compared to Apple's iDVD '08 application, for example, Windows DVD Maker is almost laughably unsophisticated.
Sobering reality: Microsoft really shouldn't get much credit for getting into DVD movie making at this point in time, if only because the market is already moving away from this form of movie delivery. This year, Apple released a new version of its iLife suite of digital media applications that deemphasizes iDVD in favor of digital movie distribution via Web sites. Given the widespread penetration of broadband Internet and multiple PC households, this seems like the way to go, even for near-HD quality movies. Six years ago, when Apple debuted the first version of the iLife suite, DVD-based movie delivery made a lot more sense than it does now. That Microsoft has responded to the need for DVD making so slowly and in such a primitive fashion is somewhat unnerving if you look to the company for any sort of leadership in digital media matters.
Despite its limitations, Windows DVD Maker isn't a horrible solution for creating simple DVD movies that will play on virtually any PC or DVD player, assuming you're using a relatively modern DVD writer with compatible write-once DVD media (DVD+R, DVD-R, DVD+R DL, or DVD-R DL).