In a bizarre move, Microsoft announced that Windows 8 will have no built-in ability to play DVDs or Blu Ray discs, but instead will rely on third party players, and that will depend on people geting their own disc playing software or paying an additional fee to upgrade Windows Media Center.
At the official Building Windows 8 blog, the company justifies the move by claiming that television and DVD use on personal computers is “in sharp decline,” and says that it would have to spend “a significant amount in royalties” to offer support for optical media going forward. Microsoft says online media is the focus for Windows 8, and will include H.264, VC-1, MP4, AAC, WMA, MP3, PCM and (as announced earlier today) Dolby Digital Plus codecs, as well a variety of container formats to make that work, but oddly the primary use case for Dolby — those DVDs — won’t be supported out of the box.
How do you play DVDs on a Windows 8 PC, then? Actually, it probably won’t be very hard: if Windows 8 machines are anything like Windows 7 ones, every consumer PC that comes with an optical drive will probably have bundled DVD software. The other alternative is what the rest of the Building Windows 8 post is about: if you buy an add-on pack for Windows 8 (either the Pro Pack, or the Media Center Pack) via the new “Add Features to Windows 8” control panel, you’ll get DVD support in Media Center as well as broadcast TV recording and VOB playback. Microsoft hasn’t mentioned any prices for those add-ons quite yet, but says they “will be in line with marginal costs,” which sounds promising.
While DVD software for Windows is incredibly easy to come by, this still seems like an odd choice. I know Apple got a lot of shit when the original iMacs didn’t have floppy drives, but at that point, floppies were truly on the the way out in favor of optical media. But despite the rise of digital downloads, people still use optical media for a lot of things, and it seems premature.
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