Native Support for DVD playback and Media Center Removed from Windows 8; Gets Dolby Digital Plus

Windows 8 users will be able to access and install Windows Media Center via the "Add Features to Windows 8" option in the control panel. In a May 3 blog post, Bernardo Caldas and Linda Averett, discussed how Microsoft will make sure Windows 8 fully supports the capabilities of Media Center as it is in […]

Windows 8 users will be able to access and install Windows Media Center via the "Add Features to Windows 8" option in the control panel.

In a May 3 blog post, Bernardo Caldas and Linda Averett, discussed how Microsoft will make sure Windows 8 fully supports the capabilities of Media Center as it is in Windows 7.

"Given the changing landscape, the cost of decoder licensing, and the importance of a straight forward edition plan, we've decided to make Windows Media Center available to Windows 8 customers via the Add Features to Windows 8 control panel (formerly known as Windows Anytime Upgrade)," Caldas and Averett notes. This ensures that customers who are interested in Media Center have a convenient way to get it.

"Windows Media Player will continue to be available in all editions, but without DVD playback support. For optical discs playback on new Windows 8 devices, we are going to rely on the many quality solutions on the market, which provide great experiences for both DVD and Blu-ray," adds Caldas and Averett.

Windows 8 Ends native support to DVD Playback, Windows Media Center

"Acquiring either the Windows 8 Media Center Pack or the Windows 8 Pro Pack gives you Media Center, including DVD playback (in Media Center, not in Media Player), broadcast TV recording and playback (DBV-T/S, ISDB-S/T, DMBH, and ATSC), and VOB file playback."

If you have the regular Windows 8 SKU, you can choose to install the Windows 8 Pro Pack for Windows Media Center. While, the Windows 8 Pro users will install the Windows 8 Media Center Pack.

The regular Windows Media Player, which will be in all versions of Windows 8, won't be able to play DVDs anymore like it can with Windows 7. Microsoft states, "For optical discs playback on new Windows 8 devices, we are going to rely on the many quality solutions on the market, which provide great experiences for both DVD and Blu-ray."

Pricing for these Packs, as well as retail versions of Windows 8, will be announced closer to the release date. However, Microsoft said that "to give you some indication of Media Center Pack pricing, it will be in line with marginal costs."

In other Windows 8 news,

Dolby Digital Plus codec for Windows 8

Dolby and Microsoft announced that Windows 8 on tablets and PCs will use the "Dolby Digital Plus" surround sound audio codec. The addition of Dolby Digital Plus enables the playback of Dolby-encoded content across a growing number of devices.

Dolby Digital Plus will be supported for both desktop and Metro-style apps and also for Windows 8 x86 and Windows 8 ARM-based machines.

Developers will be enabled to deliver the highest level of immersive experiences and cinematic sound through Windows 8 APIs in desktop and Metro-style apps, including those developed for x86 and ARM architectures.

Dolby Digital Plus 5.1-channel decoding and Dolby Digital two-channel encoding will be supported in all PCs and tablets licensed to run Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, and Windows RT editions.

"With the incredible growth of online download and streaming media, particularly for video content, this agreement ensures a great audio experience for those consumers who wish to download or stream TV and movies containing Dolby Digital Plus," said Tami Reller, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Marketing Officer, Windows and Windows Live, Microsoft. "Additionally, all of their existing and future home videos recorded with Dolby Digital Plus audio will work great on Windows 8 right out of the box."

Update: Steve Sinfosky published a FAQ "DVD playback and Windows Media Center in Windows," explaining a bit the costs related to licensing DVD playback capabilities on its Windows platform.

Here are some Q&A's from Sinofsky's post:

How much does it cost the PC ecosystem to play DVDs?
Playing DVDs generally require MPEG-2 video compression and Dolby Digital (AC-3) audio. Even though it is possible to use other formats, the majority of commercial DVDs are encoded using these formats. In order to decode these formats, the playback device needs to be licensed to use these decoders. MPEG-2 decoder costs $2.00 per unit under current MPEG-LA terms. Dolby license is an additional cost that varies by the technology licensed, the type of device, and unit volume. While not related to Windows, Blu Ray would be an additional cost on top of these. So when you add all this up and apply to all Windows PCs, it is an ongoing cost of hundreds of millions of dollars per year to the PC ecosystem, well over a billion dollars over the lifecycle of the operating system and yet by most predictions the majority of PCs will not even be capable of playing DVDs.

What if I upgrade to Windows 8 on my current Windows 7 PC with a DVD drive?
If there is existing third-party playback software the Windows Upgrade Assistant will help determine if this software is compatible with Windows 8 and you will have the option to keep it during the upgrade to Windows 8. Otherwise, you will need to acquire third-party playback software after the upgrade to play DVDs. Alternatively, you can acquire the Windows 8 Media Center Pack or the Windows 8 Pro Pack post upgrade. Both Packs include Windows Media Center, including the ability to play DVDs.

Are you adding another Windows 8 edition called "Windows 8 Pro with Media Center"?
The Windows 8 Pro edition that includes Media Center will be named and branded Windows 8 Pro. The only difference is that it will include Media Center and you will also find a different string in the system properties where it will say "Windows 8 Pro with Media Center". This is not a new edition of Windows 8.

Why do I have to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro to get Media Center?
Trends in Media Center usage show a decline in the number of customers that use it on a regular basis, starting from a relatively small base as we previously blogged about. When we look at actual usage, most customers using Media Center and playing DVDs used Windows Ultimate and XP Pro/Media Center. We believe those customers will also be interested in the additional features provided in the Windows 8 Pro edition, such as Boot from VHD, Client Hyper-V, etc., especially if they are using Media Center on a PC used for general tasks. Considering the audience and current usage, we conclude the vast majority of Media Center customers upgrading to Windows 8 will be to the Windows 8 Pro edition. In our efforts to keep the Windows 8 editions plan as simple as possible, Windows Media Center is only available on Windows 8 Pro. If you already have Windows 8 Pro and want to add Media Center, you just need to acquire the additional Media Center Pack as an in-place upgrade available via Add Windows Features (formerly Windows Anytime Upgrade).

What is the Windows 8 Pro Pack and why does it include Media Center?
Windows 8 Pro Pack is an upgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 8 Pro. Like we described above, Media Center is only available on Windows 8 Pro. When you acquire the Pro Pack, we make it a single step that takes you to Windows 8 Pro with Media Center. The cost of the Media Center Pack is essentially built into Pro Pack. Again, this is an attempt to add simplicity to the process of acquiring Media Center.

What version of Windows Media Center will be included in Windows 8?
The version of Media Center included in Windows 8 is what we shipped in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. It is much consistent with what shipped in Windows 7.