Microsoft Changes Course on Media Center and Windows 8

Microsoft Changes Course on Media Center and Windows 8

Microsoft has reconsidered their approach for Media Center and Windows 8.  We bring you the details.

microsoft

Microsoft’s Building Windows 8 blog recently published a post revising the strategy for adding Media Center into Windows 8.  Here is what they said:

In this post we wanted to update you on Media Center and Windows 8, specifically how we will make sure Windows 8 fully supports the capabilities of Media Center as it is in Windows 7. We took the feedback about maintaining the functionality very seriously, and we clearly understood what we’ve heard many of you saying around the value of Media Center for movies, Internet TV, broadcast TV, optical media, music, photos, and all the other scenarios it covers today. Many said in comments and email to us, that so long as the feature is available somehow it is fine. This post is how we will deliver on that and continue to support Media Center for another product lifecycle. This post was authored by Bernardo Caldas in the Windows Business Group, with help from Linda Averett who leads program management for the Developer Experience team.
–Steven

If you saw our recent post on the Windows 8 editions, then you know already that Windows Media Center will be available in Windows 8. You might also have noticed Windows Media Center is included in Windows 8 Consumer Preview. Media Center has always been subject of a lot of discussion and feedback in these forums as well as email. Today we would like to share more details about our plan and the motivations behind it.

First let’s step back and talk about media experiences in general. Windows 8 will deliver a world-class video and audio entertainment experience. Our focus is on providing a comprehensive video and audio platform for developers to build engaging and differentiated apps. The Windows 8 developer platform will contain a wide variety of industry-standard media formats, along with Internet Explorer 10, which supports the standard HTML5 web platform. It also includes the set of decoders (shown in the table below) and new developer functionality to deliver these modern media experiences.

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.

Video

Audio

Decoders

H.264

VC-1/WMV

MP4 Pt 2

DD+ (non-disk)

AAC

WMA

MP3

PCM

Format container

AVI

MPEG-2 TS

MP4

ASF

M4A

ASF

MP3

WAV

In the process of building a robust platform, we’ve also evaluated which in-box media playback experiences we want to provide. The media landscape has changed quite significantly since the release of Windows 7. Our telemetry data and user research shows us that the vast majority of video consumption on the PC and other mobile devices is coming from online sources such as YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, or any of the other myriad of online and downloadable video services available. In fact, consumption of movies online in the United States will surpass physical video in 2012, according to this recent IHS Screen Digest research.

On the PC, these online sources are growing much faster than DVD & broadcast TV consumption, which are in sharp decline (no matter how you measure—unique users, minutes, percentage of sources, etc.). Globally, DVD sales have declined significantly year over year and Blu-ray on PCs is losing momentum as well. Watching broadcast TV on PCs, while incredibly important for some of you, has also declined steadily. These traditional media playback scenarios, optical media and broadcast TV, require a specialized set of decoders (and hardware) that cost a significant amount in royalties. With these decoders built into most Windows 7 editions, the industry has faced those costs broadly, regardless of whether or not a given device includes an optical drive or TV tuner.

Our partners have shared clear concerns over the costs associated with codec licensing for traditional media playback, especially as Windows 8 enables an unprecedented variety of form factors. Windows has addressed these concerns in the past by limiting availability of these experiences to specialized “media” or “premium” editions. At the same time, we also heard clear feedback from customers and partners that led to our much simplified Windows 8 editions lineup.

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). 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.

We will offer two ways to acquire Windows Media Center:

Starting point
OEM pre-installed, clean install, or upgrade

End-user upgrade
Acquire & install via Add Features to Windows 8

Ending point

Windows 8 Pro

>

Windows 8Media Center Pack

>

Windows 8 Pro
with Media Center

Windows 8

>

Windows 8 Pro Pack

>

Windows 8 Pro is designed to help tech enthusiasts obtain a broader set of Windows 8 technologies. 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. Pricing for these Packs, as well as retail versions of Windows 8, will be announced closer to the release date. To give you some indication of Media Center Pack pricing, it will be in line with marginal costs.

We are incredibly excited about the future of entertainment in Windows. We hope you have had a chance to try some of the new Windows 8 Metro style media applications such as the Video and the Music apps. These apps embody the characteristics that make Windows 8 great for both end users and developers, and are included with the Consumer Preview install, ensuring a great local media playback experience on Windows 8. There is much more to come, as developers embrace the power of the Windows 8 platform to delight media enthusiasts around the world!

Essentially, Microsoft will sell Media Center as an upgrade to anyone who wants to add it to Windows 8.  Pricing has yet to be determined…we’ll keep an eye on that for you and let you know what the pricing is as soon as we know.

[button link="http://blogs.msdn.com/b/b8/archive/2012/05/03/making-windows-media-center-available-in-windows-8.aspx" style="info" window="yes"]Windows 8 Blog Post[/button]

  • JazJon

    Sweet !

  • http://gcoupe.wordpress.com/ Geoff Coupe

    Jim, Microsoft hasn’t “changed course” one iota from their original announcement. You are still going to have to buy Windows 8 Pro features one way or another before you can then get WMC installed. And it appears that the Windows 8 WMC is just the same old WMC as you get for free in Windows 7.

    I’m still having a facepalm moment: http://gcoupe.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/another-facepalm-moment/

    • http://twitter.com/jam3ohio Jim McCarthy

      Actually, they did change course. Originally, you had to buy Win8 Pro to get these feautures and they were apparently not available via upgrade, but rather an add-on package that would have been downloaded from a website. Here is the relevant passage from the announcement:

      “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). 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.”

      So MS has decided to allow a paid upgrade path from other versions of Win8 to include MC, leveraging the Anytime Upgrade path rather than an add-on. IMHO, users are more likely to avail themselves of the OS upgrade than the addition of an add-on package as it is more convenient to upgrade from inside the OS than to have to navigate to a website and download an add-in.

      I agree that WMC will be essentially unchanged from Win7 based on what we have seen so far, hardly surprising as uptake of this feature has been pretty sparse.

      • http://connecteddigitalworld.com/ Andrew Edney

        Jim is right, that is certainly how I see it too!

        Personally I see no benefit in upgrading my current Windows 7 Media Center machine to Windows 8 – why pay extra money to upgrade to an OS I don’t need and then either lose the functionality I already have, or pay to get it back in exactly the same state it is in now!
        So for Media Center at least, I will be sticking with Windows 7!

      • http://gcoupe.wordpress.com/ Geoff Coupe

        Nonsense. Read the post:

        “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).”

        You always could upgrade recent versions of Windows via the “Windows Anytime Upgrade” path. Now they are just calling it by another name: “Add Features”

        Same old slice and dice.

        • http://connecteddigitalworld.com/ Andrew Edney

          Actually Geoff, if you read Microsoft’s blog on April 17th, they state:
          Windows Media Center will be available as an economical “media pack” add-on to Windows 8 Pro.
          Now they are saying it’s Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro, so that is a change!

          • http://gcoupe.wordpress.com/ Geoff Coupe

            Andrew, I’m sorry, but the end result is that we are required to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro (with features that are of zero use for an HTPC).

            As I originally said, “one way or another” we have to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro if we wish to have WMC 8. So, effectively, there is zero change…

            Microsoft (and you) can dress it up in all the fancy clothes that you like, but I’m standing here being the small boy saying that the emperor is stark naked…

            • http://connecteddigitalworld.com/ Andrew Edney

              Actually Geoff I’m not disagreeing with what you are saying, if you read my first reply you will see that I said I am not upgrading to Windows 8 on my Media Center for the same reasons you are saying.
              What I was saying is that Microsoft HAS changed direction! Up until this current announcement, ONLY Windows 8 Pro had the ability to get Media Center, now Windows 8 (not just Pro) can get it, therefore it is a change.

              • http://gcoupe.wordpress.com/ Geoff Coupe

                Yep, the Windows 8 Pro Pack “formerly known as the Windows Anytime Upgrade”

                It’s a name change only…

                • http://connecteddigitalworld.com/ Andrew Edney

                  Well I’m glad we have that settled – either way I think a lot of Media Center users are not going to be happy, and won’t upgrade!

                  • http://gcoupe.wordpress.com/ Geoff Coupe

                    Amen, Andrew – on that we can agree!

                    • http://connecteddigitalworld.com/ Andrew Edney

                      ☺ I think Microsoft want shot of Media Center. I have been saying for a while on the TDL Podcast now that I believe Microsoft want all media related activities done through Xbox and Xbox Live services.

      • http://gcoupe.wordpress.com/ Geoff Coupe

        And…

        If X is the price differential between licensing Windows 8 Pro over plain old Windows 8, and Y is the additional cost for the WMC add-on, then it looks as though:

        1) the Windows 8 Media Pack will cost Y, and
        2) the Windows 8 Pro Pack will cost X + Y.

        Slice, dice, and kill the product…