Microsoft has announced that Windows 8 won’t support DVD-video playback unless you pay extra for Windows Media Center.
Consumers will be displeased, but Microsoft has dropped DVD support for some good reasons — and there are good workarounds if you know the secrets.
Microsoft’s surprise DVD announcement
The Building Windows 8 blog — Microsoft’s official discussion forum for everything related to the next version of Windows — tends to meander, often avoiding the heart of a matter. Case in point: the May 3 “Making Windows Media Center available in Windows 8” post. Yes, the blog talks about making WMC available in Windows 8. But it also happens to mention this bit of unwelcome news: “Windows Media Player will continue to be available in all editions, but without DVD-playback support.”
If you read the blog and were paying attention, that one sentence summarized the whole point of the discussion. In Windows 8, the only way to get Windows support for playing video DVDs is through Windows Media Center. To get WMC, you not only have to pay for Windows 8 Pro, you have to get the Pro Pack or Media Center Pack, too. Prices haven’t yet been announced.
When I first took a look at Microsoft’s reason for yanking DVD-playback support from WMP, I didn’t buy it for a second. DVD-video playback is available in Windows Vista Home Premium and Ultimate as well as in Windows 7 Home Premium, Business, and Enterprise. Why on earth is Microsoft effectively yanking it from Windows 8?
Microsoft puts it this way: “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.” I tweeted about it, and @BuildWindows8 (the official Building Windows 8 Twitter account) tweeted back to me, “Cons[umer] PCs are 60%, moving to ultrabooks/tablets rapidly (80%+ are mobile). Biz PCs are 40% (SFF, AIO) rarely optical drives.”
Microsoft was telling me that most new Windows computers don’t use DVDs. (I found the “80%+ are mobile” comment about consumer PCs startling but believable.) Still, in my opinion, that doesn’t excuse Microsoft for dropping simple DVD-video playback in Windows 8. Why couldn’t Microsoft just pick up the tab for DVD playback licensing and add a few cents to the cost of building Windows 8? Man, was I naive.