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 8 Media 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!

--Bernardo and Linda