Windows Media Center To Be A Pro Only Feature In Windows 8

Subject: General Tech | May 7, 2012 - 03:01 PM |
Tagged: windows media center, Windows 8 Pro, windows 8, upgrade, htpc

News is circulating around the Internet that Microsoft is taking Windows Media Center out of Windows 8 and offering it as a separate paid add-on for Windows 8 Pro users. Many are not happy about the decision.

Windows Media Center is an application developed by Microsoft that provides a TV friendly interface for all the media on your computers including photos, videos, music, and television. That last function is quite possibly the biggest feature of WMC as it allows users to ditch their cable set top box (STB) and turn their computer into a TV tuner and DVR with the proper hardware.

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Windows 8 Metro With Media Center Icon

The program debuted as a special edition of Windows called Windows XP Media Center Edition. It was then rolled into the general release of Windows Vista and then into many editions of Windows 7. Windows Media Center has a relatively small user base relative to the number of general Windows users, but they are a vocal and enthusiastic minority. About a month ago, I got a CableCard from Comcast (after a week of... well, let’s just say it’s not a pleasant experience) and after pairing it with the HDHomeRun Prime and my Windows 7 machines, i was able to watch and record TV on any of the computers in my house as well as on the living room TV via an Xbox 360 acting as a Windows Media Center extender. I have to say that the setup is really solid, I have all the expandable DVR space I could want, and the WMC interface is so much snappier than any cable or satellite set top box I’ve ever used. Windows 7 became that much more valuable once I was able to utilize Windows Media Center.

With that said, it is still a niche feature and I understand that not everyone needs or wants to use it. It is even a feature that I would pay for should Microsoft unbundle it. Yet, when I read a bit of news concerning Windows 8 and WMC over the weekend, I was not happy at all. According to an article at Tested.com, Microsoft is going to unbundle Windows Media Center for Windows 8 into a separate downloadable Media Center pack with a currently unknown price (so far, I’m disappointed but still willing to accept it). The Media Center pack will be made available for purchase and download using the “Add Features To Windows 8” control panel option–what was known as Windows Anytime Upgrade in previous versions of Windows.

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Windows Media Center in Windows 7 - TV Guide

What is confusing (and what I find infuriating) is that users will only be able to purchase the Media Center pack if they are using the Pro version of Windows 8, leaving home users out of luck. Due to Windows 8 Pro essentially being the Ultimate Edition of previous Windows versions, it is definitely going to cost more than the base version, and that is rather disconcerting. I have no problem paying for the Media Center pack, but I do have a problem with Microsoft artificially limiting who has the right to purchase it to begin with. It just seems downright greedy of them and is a big disservice to Media Center’s faithful users. Microsoft should go with one method or the other, not both. For example, they should unbundle Media Center, and allow users of any desktop (not RT, in other words) Windows 8 version to purchase it. Alternatively, if they are going to limit Media Center to be a Pro version only feature, it should be a free download. Users should not have to pay for the privilege to pay for the software, especially when Microsoft has said that Windows 8 Media Center will not be very different from the one in Windows 7 and will only contain minor improvements.

Rick Broida of PC World has been a bit more straightforward in stating his opinion of Microsoft’s decision in saying “I’m hopping mad.” And I tend to agree with his sentiments, except for WMC needing to be free. I’d be happy to pay for it if it means Microsoft continues to support it. I just have an issue with the pricing situation that the news of the decision is suggesting. To be fair, Microsoft has not yet released final pricing information, so it may not be as bad as I’m thinking. Even so, the news that they are making WMC a paid add on and are limiting it to Windows 8 Pro only leaves a rather bad aftertaste. Mr. Broida encourages HTPC users to not upgrade, and to stick with Windows 7. I don’t think I’m at that point yet (though I get where he’s coming from), but I will say that Windows 8 was a tough sell before I heard this news, and the WMC news isn’t helping. I can only hope that Microsoft will reconsider and, dare I say it, do the right thing for their users here.

Source: Tested
May 7, 2012 | 03:13 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I guess this is one way to shove and xbox in your face.

May 7, 2012 | 04:12 PM - Posted by rahul (not verified)

Btw this is confirmed by MS in their Building Windows 8 blog:
http://blogs.msdn.com/b/b8/archive/2012/05/03/making-windows-media-cente...

May 7, 2012 | 04:25 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

Hopefully they change tune, for as enthused as they are about full screen apps, they aren't being kind to WMC ;) hehe

May 7, 2012 | 04:15 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

My guess is they're trying to annoy the few users of media centre, they're probably fed up of supporting something nobody uses. Sure they risk having a few users jump ship to Mac, Linux or simply not upgrading from 7. More likely people will notice metro apps are going to be ideal for use with a TV and remote (6 foot interface) cable cards might not be supported but there's going to be loads of music and video metro apps that will be fine for home theatre pcs, I am speaking as an outsider, im with the majority, I opened media centre a couple of times and found it useless for my needs.

May 7, 2012 | 04:22 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

hehe, yeah that wouldn't surprise me if they did that :P

Media Center isn't the greatest for stuff like photos and music, but as a TV DVR is really good :). I'll admit that before I got into it, I hated the few times It auto-opened instead of VLC for a DVD :P. Now that I use it for TV though, I love it :)

May 7, 2012 | 07:54 PM - Posted by Mark Harry (not verified)

I haven't used it in years, but I will be buying several copies of 7 for future builds anyhow.

May 7, 2012 | 08:32 PM - Posted by Chaitanya Shukla (not verified)

I have been using Windows 7 ultimate edition for year and a half. and till this date I haven't used that media center once. Although I reckon media center might be of concern only to those people who are using HTPC for most of the desktop and notebook users its a useless feature.

May 8, 2012 | 10:43 AM - Posted by Jeff (not verified)

you mean stick with windows

    7

May 8, 2012 | 11:15 AM - Posted by OctaveanActually (not verified)

Microsoft probably has a number of reasons for doing this. One might be to offset the price of Media Center which was previously positioned to add value or differentiate different versions of Windows. Another reason may be due to the licensing of codecs / decoders necessary for Media Center operation (though Media Center started as a bring your own codec / decoder type of program).

I use Media Center personally and I think a lot of people probably who haven’t used it or haven’t given it much of a chance probably never had a system setup properly for its use.

I’d take Microsoft Media Center over any DVR box or any other software solution.

May 8, 2012 | 11:15 AM - Posted by OctaveanActually (not verified)

g

May 8, 2012 | 03:39 PM - Posted by droozilla

Just another reason I'm not moving to 8. Garbage!

May 9, 2012 | 09:29 AM - Posted by klatch

I am pretty much in agreement with you Tim. I understand their desire to not have to pay whatever licensing fees that Media Center may incur for every windows install, and then have it as a separate install that the people who use it can pay for (hopefully something reasonable). If they don't actually reduce the license cost for the base windows install, and there is no real way to prove that they are/did, then this is really unfortunate. I absolutely don't understand how they can justify forcing a pro license as a pre-req for this though. The majority of the home installs are, wait for it, home licenses and it is poor form to force not only the license upgrade from home to pro but then to also force the add on purchase. As Tim said, pick a path - bundle it in pro or available to purchase for any license - if those were the only two options then I think the best is available to purchase for any license.

Shouldn't affect me too much - I use WMC but mainly just for watching TV on my main computer, not on a TV. I only ever get the pro versions because I like having the remote desktop ability, but still, this seems like a terrible decision.

May 9, 2012 | 02:40 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

I'm glad we agree :).

The other big news was that they are unbundling the MPEG-2 DVD playback codec, and somehow I don't see them passing the savings onto consumers for that either :(.

Win 8 is looking risky right now... I do love some of the smaller tweaks (network copy speeds, the new task manager, and the file cut/copy speed graphs), but they are really making some confusing decisions for the bigger changes!

May 9, 2012 | 03:44 PM - Posted by OctaveanActually (not verified)

I plan to buy a Microsoft TechNet subscription some time before the Windows 8 release. Possibly even as early as this month. So I don’t intend to buy Windows 8 directly or if I can help it, the Windows Media Center pay add-on.

I can see why people would stick to Windows 7 though.

Microsoft almost certainly has a built in success rate though given they make the bulk of their sales with OEM’s. Buy a new PC get Windows 8 whether you like it or not. Downgrade options still count as a sold version of the latest OS.

May 9, 2012 | 04:13 PM - Posted by OctaveanActually (not verified)

Generally speaking, as soon as I first heard about Microsoft Media Room and Microsoft’s plan to embed Media Center for use with set top boxes, I figured Windows Media Center was in jeopardy in some way shape or form.

Also the fact that Media Center isn’t monetized (no one pays directly for its use or is forced into an ecosystem / walled garden) means its not earning any money directly which can curb Microsoft’s interest in the product.

Still, I’ve used every version of Media Center and I don’t see why they couldn’t just go back to having the user or OEM provide they necessary codecs / decoders. Microsoft could have even recommended what they thought were the best or most compatible codecs / decoders.

Simple,...

October 13, 2012 | 01:01 PM - Posted by Sammo (not verified)

It's been announced that Windows Media Center will be a free download for Windows 8 Pro. So many articles (like this one) is not accurate anymore about how Microsoft is "greedy" and what not.

Sometimes it's better to wait before rushing to judgement.

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