If you want to watch a DVD movie on Windows 8, you're going to need to spring for the Media Center upgrade. In a new post on its Building Windows 8 Blog, Microsoft has confirmed that DVD playback won't be part of the core OS features. It will be available through third-party software, of course, and via a couple of different OS upgrades.
Windows 8 Pro users will be able to buy the Media Center Pack, which includes DVD playback support along with DVR capabilities. Vanilla Win8 owners will have access to the same features via the Pro Pack, which presumably includes other goodies, as well. Microsoft hasn't set prices, but it does say they'll be "in line with marginal costs."
The decision to drop DVD playback from the standard OS was apparently motivated by several factors, including the associated licensing costs. Microsoft says the vast majority of video viewing on the PC occurs with streaming content, anyway. DVD movie sales are down, and the percentage of PCs equipped with optical drives seems to be waning, particularly in the notebook world.
If dropping Media Center functions like DVD playback makes the base Windows 8 versions cheaper, and the upgrade packs are reasonably priced, the move is defensible. I certainly wouldn't mind a more a la carte approach to Windows features. However, I can't help but see the shift as an attempt by Microsoft to push PCs out of the living room, where they might compete with its Xbox console. That's a shame, because the PC is a much more robust platform for media consumption.
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