Microsoft Provides More Details on Windows Media Center in Windows 8

May 04 2012

WMC Green ButtonIn a recent Building Windows 8 blog post, Microsoft announced the new product editions for Windows 8. For HTPC-enthusiasts, the announcement turned out to be a good news/bad news proposition. The good news was that Microsoft plans to streamline their offerings, reducing the number of product editions that they plan on offering for x86/x64 PCs to just Windows 8 and Windows 8 Professional. The bad news was that Windows Media Center would only be available as a premium add-on, and only for Windows 8 Professional, the higher-end edition that is not targeted at the consumer market, two factors that seem sure to further limit the audience for WMC.

Well, Microsoft is back with another blog post in which they, kinda sorta, provide some clarification on how Windows Media Center will be made available in Windows 8. Long story short, Windows Media Center is still only going to be available in Windows 8 Pro, but at least there will be an option for all x86/x64-based Windows 8 users to upgrade their way to WMC. Media Center will be made available for purchase through the Add Features to Windows 8 control panel, the replacement for Windows Anytime Upgrade. Windows 8 Pro owners will purchase the Windows 8 Media Center Pack and Windows 8 owners will purchase the Windows 8 Pro Pack which will upgrade Windows 8 to Windows 8 Pro with WMC. It's only a kinda sorta clarification as there is still no details on pricing, though Microsoft continues to promise that it will be a marginal cost.

In the process of trying to clarify the WMC situation, Microsoft also provides some guidance on what Windows 8 will provide for media playback in Metro apps, including decoder and format container support. On the whole, media support will be largely the same as it was with Windows 7, but there are a couple of notable changes. Dolby Digital Plus support will be included in all versions of Windows 8, but only for file and streaming playback. DVD and VOB playback will only be available with the addition of Windows Media Center or with a third party application. Recorded TV playback will also be available only with Windows Media Center. In the end, Microsoft is justifying all of these moves by citing declining interest in optical disc and broadcast TV playback and as a means of reducing codec licensing costs for partners.

Metro style apps can use any of the decoders included in Windows. These decoders are optimized for system reliability, battery life, and performance, and cover all key playback scenarios for mainstream content such as YouTube video, Netflix video, Amazon audio/video, H.264 web browsing/streaming, Hulu video, MP4 video, AVCHD video from camcorders, Ultraviolet video, and the HTML5 video tag. Metro style apps can also include additional decoders (such as FLAC, MKV, OGG, etc.) in their apps package for use within the apps.

Building Windows 8

Comments

I read elsewhere that Microsoft will be using a new advertising slogan to encourage Win8 users to purchase WMC: "Windows Media Center: 8 years of engineering creative ways to prevent too much success."

Man that totally sucks.  Seems my days with a Microsoft OS outside of work are now limited to the remaining life of my HTPC & I'll be converting to a Q when this goes.

Q uses embedded windows?

It's too bad that (at least it doesn't seem like) they aren't Metrofying Windows 8 Media Center, but it's not the end of the world. We've got the forthecoming Q and Echo, tuners are getting pretty darn reasonable in price, there is still Windows 7 Media Center (very stable IMO), and Windows 7 and Windows 8 are supposed to be flawless next to each other on the same network (so upgrade the rest of your household to 8 if you want). Unfortunately, it seems that in order to get recorded tv playback, you need to buy the whole shabang.

On another note, I still think that some innovative company can create a Metro Media Center app for the TV portion of MC.

This seals it.  No upgrade for me.  I'll stick with W7MC untill they kill that off as well.  It almost seems like M$ doesn't want people to buy their products.  It seems as though they will rely on $$$ from corp accounts and preinstalls on new computers.

It certainly does sound like Microsoft is not planning any significant improvements to Media Center -- at least they haven't talked about it.  I think it is unlikely they will surprise us with something nice.  I was also really hoping they would bring it to Metro.  Like you say, maybe a 3rd party will be willing.

But for the Metro interface to be truly useful from 10 feet, there would need to be some changes.  In particular, Metro and the apps that run under it would need to be optimized for remote control access.  That means limiting navigation to arrow keys, enter, and back.  In addition, they would have to incorporate some of the WMC innovations such as the fast scrolling that happens when trying to rapidly scroll horizontally over large collections, including the ability to quick search with the number pad.  The main interface would also need the ability to assign a hot-key/hot-remote-key to a tile (so you can have dedicated keys to get to Live TV, Guide, and Recorded TV, for example) -- Perhaps that will be up to an innovative 3rd party developer...  At this point I see too much focus on touch only and not enough on what this would be like sitting on the couch with only an IR remote.

It is a bummer that just as we get great CPUs/iGPUs for displaying HD content (that run relatively cool & quiet) and great 3rd party hardware (cable card tuners)... Stuff that really makes the HTPC reasonable... they are ready to abandon it.  Let's face it, we are probably some 10 years away from the death of broadcast.  I wish Microsoft saw broadcast TV, and specifically networked cable card tuners as a unique feature they could bring to their tablet platform that really no one else is capable of (well, I guess Silicon Dust has an app for the iPad -- but no access to centrally located DVR).

Knowing what we know now, I can't see upgrading any of my 8 computers to Win8.  For me, the new start screen is a mistake on the desktop (and laptop), and there appears to be nothing for Media Center users (for me, 3 of the 8 machines).  Having an enhanced "copy files dialog" and "task manager" is just not enough to entice me to upgrade, especially with the negatives of the new Metro stuff (that invades what was the excellent Win7 desktop).  I see a lot of Win7 in my future, and maybe a Win8 tablet.  Maybe they will change, but it doesn't appear likely -- Microsoft seems bent on their strategy.

In a way, Win8 is shaping up to be the next Vista...

I don't get it.  If WMC is such an insignificant product why not just kill it instead of making it an add on pack to a premium product that most folks wouldn't pay the premium to get in the first place? 

Oh well what do I know.  MS is one of the biggest, most successful companies in the world and I'm just treading water, they have to know what they're doing...right?

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