Report: Media Center to have limited role in Windows 8

Microsoft has outlined a number of the big changes coming in Windows 8, including the addition of a touch-friendly Metro UI. Metro’s big fonts and tiled design were obviously concocted with tablets in mind, but they seem just as well suited to home-theater PCs that put users across the room on the couch, often with little more than a remote for navigation.

Rather than equipping Metro for the living room, it looks like Microsoft is going to keep the 10-foot Media Center interface included in Windows 7—and severely limit its reach. The Verge has heard that Media Center will be restricted to special editions of Windows 8. Although Media Center is currently included in all but the Starter edition of Win7, Microsoft reportedly wants to concentrate its TV efforts on the Xbox. Media Center requires additional licensing fees, the site says, so dropping it from the core OS should lower costs. This move is something of a return to form for Microsoft, which first launched Media Center as a special edition of Windows XP.

With PVR-equipped set-top boxes gaining in popularity and consoles increasingly being used to stream video, I can see why Media Center might be relegated to a smaller role in Windows 8. Unlike a few years ago, when PCs were really the only way to enjoy a range of content on your television, the market is now flooded with media players that cost a lot less than even the cheapest Windows-powered nettops. While they can’t handle PVR duties, these devices play HD content and often support popular services like Netflix, Pandora, and Facebook.

The rise of encrypted digital cable has made the PVR side of the home-theater PC equation more complicated, as well. Gone are the days when assembling a TiVo-killer for the living room was as easy as slapping a TV tuner into a PC.

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    • Malphas
    • 8 years ago

    [quote<]Microsoft reportedly wants to concentrate its TV efforts on the Xbox[/quote<] Totally brainless move in my opinion. Xbox is fine for 10-40 year old males, but it's of zero interest to everyone else. HTPCs (in the broad sense) on the other hand are a growing market with wide appeal. Tacking in home theatre features onto the Xbox aren't going to convince non-gamers to buy them when there's cheaper dedicated alternatives available.

    • Bensam123
    • 8 years ago

    Mm… keep those products segmented MS! You wouldn’t want your consumers starting to think they can actually hook a computer up to a TV… The next logical leap is they could not only watch movies on that very same TV, but also play games! Oh, there goes your franchise.

      • Scrotos
      • 8 years ago

      ??? You make no sense to me. MS has parts in all of that, don’t they? Some TVs have or will have some type of media center or media center extender functionality. MS owns the OS on the computer. MS has Games for Windows Live! ™ for gaming. And if you want other games, there’s the XBox360 with games and media functionality.

      So… if you can plug a computer into a TV, their franchise dies? What?

        • Malphas
        • 8 years ago

        It’s pretty clear what he’s saying. The franchise he’s referring to is Xbox, which you could argue Microsoft is artificially attempting to reinforce by discouraging Windows as an home theatre option (supported by headlines like this) in favour of branding Xbox as an entertainment hub. They’ve got a history of doing these things, even though it would seem totally counter-productive to MS’ interests as a whole.

        His point was hinting at the same argument that’s been proposed from various corners in recent years: that consoles (in this case Xbox, although it applies in general) could be marginalised by the rise in set-top boxes/HTPCs and eventually built in television functionality.

        e.g. in say a decade from now, why bother with a console when you can just login to your account on a streaming game service (a la OnLive, but wouldn’t be surprised if Steam get into the streaming business at some point as well though) on your Internet-enabled TV and play via that?

          • Scrotos
          • 8 years ago

          Oh, ok. Yeah, not clear to me, obviously. Yeah, I dunno, I had a Pentium 75MHz with a Hercules Stingray3D/128, Voodoo Rush card that did TV out. Yeah, I could play games on a computer hooked up to my TV and I could even support 4 players in NHL ’96 with a Gravis GRiP gamepad system. But… the hassle is just the same now as it was then. I’ll grant that going to HDMI saves a cable and wireless keyboard and mouse helps a bit, but I’m not going to be doing all my gaming with a gamepad only. If I wanted that, well, XBox is available.

          I guess the reason I didn’t understand it is because it’s the same doom and gloom I’ve heard for years. Consoles will kill PC gaming. Apple is about to go out of business. This is the year of the Linux Desktop! Etc.

          Now it’s PCs will kill console gaming? Really? Call me cynical, but I don’t think MS is too worried about that. And even if they are, you don’t think there’s not a way for them to make bank? USB gamepads and Kinect workin’ on the PC already. Can you use the MS gaming headset/mic on PC? All the XBox games you can probably get working with PC and migrate the XBox Live crap to GFW or whatever it is MS uses on PC. We already saw MS issue updates to get original XBox games working on a PPC-based XBox360, why not the other way, too?

          There goes your franchise? I think not! That’s like saying Office will die because people discovered Office365 and Google Docs. Or that computers will die because people discovered they could game and check email on their phones. I’m just not buying into it.

            • Malphas
            • 8 years ago

            Well regardless of whether you’re buying it or not, that’s what’s actually happening. With regard to your examples, software sales are declining (outside developing markets moving away from piracy) in favour of increased use of web applications, and PC sales are declining as smartphones become increasingly powerful. It’s not something that happens overnight, it’s a long gradual process over decades. I don’t know where you’ve been the past half-decade but this is pretty much common knowledge by now, even if you haven’t noticed it. To say “[x] is going to kill [x]” is obviously too extreme, but no-one here actually said that except you.

    • burntham77
    • 8 years ago

    While I fully expect Windows 8 to be on my main PC, unless they make any noticeable changes to WMC, I’ll stick with Windows 7 on the HTPC for awhile.

    • mcnabney
    • 8 years ago

    Further confirmation that Win7 will be the end of Microsoft in my household.

    Currently have a WHS box (18TB), two HTPCs, and two laptops (and NO CONSOLE).

    As the hardware dies/becomes outdated in 3 years I can fully see my household changing to a PS4, smart TV, NAS, and two high-powered Android tablets with docks. One of my current PCs should be able to continue editing photos and video for quite some time.

    I am sick of having to do everything ‘the Microsoft way’. They have strangled the PC to the point that it can no longer compete.

    Oh, and the ‘expense’ of Mediacenter is probably the license fee for mpeg. Yeah, that $0.50 will guarantee a price drop of Win8…. I really don’t see why they are getting rid of it BECAUSE METRO IS MEDIACENTER, just a different color. Not everyone knows it, but you can boot into Mediacenter and do everything on your computer without ever seeing the desktop.

      • Chrispy_
      • 8 years ago

      Aye, every time Microsoft makes an OS decision it upsets people because there was nothing wrong with the old way of doing things. Then to make matters worse, the new way is incompatible and bug-ridden for anything up to two service packs.

      ‘The Microsoft way’ is the problem. Their ever-changing, wandering and directionless way is so damn inflexible that it frustrates the power users and confuses the novices ever upgrade. Their insistence on umpteen background services and processes just means that older hardware struggles unncessarily smashing the hard drive into the ground and needlessly wasting RAM preparing for eventualities that are so unlikely as to never be needed in the entire remaining lifetime of the hardware.

      Perhaps one culprit is the “one button install” that just installs every feature regardless of whether it’s relevant to the user.

    • HighTech4US2
    • 8 years ago

    Windows Media Center was the ONLY reason I bought Windows 7. My other XP SP3 systems perform just fine for all my other needs.

    I cut the cable years ago and went with OTA HDTV and DVD/Blu-ray rentals. This reduced my media entertainment bill by $100 monthly.

    I was always turned off by the recurring costs of a TIVO and it’s built in hardware limitations. The same goes for either a FIOS or Cable DVRs. Most of them have severe storage limitations, to much compression (artifacts/reduced details) or just plain limit your ability to extract a recorded show.

    My Windows 7 Media Center System has no monthly charges, 4 tuners (unlimited with patch), unlimited storage and fantastic quality of recorded shows it is the perfect HTPC solution for me and others.

    And the user add ons greatly improve the base Windows Media Center.

    I constantly get remarks in how detailed the DVRed shows look compared to either FIOS or Cable that they have.

    Not bad for a $500 quad-core system.

    If Windows 8 Media Center is not an improvement on the Windows 7 version there will be no reason for me to upgrade to Windows 8. So listen Microsoft if you want me to upgrade then improve Windows Media Center.

      • indeego
      • 8 years ago

      [quote<]> it was the perfect HTPC solution for me and others.[/quote<] ... [quote<]So listen Microsoft if you want me to upgrade then improve Windows Media Center.[/quote<]

        • mcnabney
        • 8 years ago

        They can start by, hmmmm I don’t know, supporting some video codecs and containers!!!!!!

          • Corrado
          • 8 years ago

          I think what would work well is them adding an “app api” for casual games, and other smartphone type apps. Allow HBO to write an HBO Go plugin like they’re doing on the xbox360, etc.

          • insulin_junkie72
          • 8 years ago

          Native support for the MKV container is the only major omission from stock W7MC. The major video codecs (MPEG-2, MPEG-4 ASP, H.264, VC-1) are supported out of the box.

          • HighTech4US2
          • 8 years ago

          They need to support the MKV file container format.

          They need to add FF/RW and subtitle/alt audio tracks.

          I currently use Shark007 codec pack along with MediaControl for the above but it required a lot of tweaking to get it to function properly.

      • Corrado
      • 8 years ago

      Exactly. My desktop system is now Kubuntu, and my laptop is a Mac. Only windows box is because of MCE. It even looksl ike MythTV will be supporting the Ceton card shortly (already does in a patch but not the official version). If it does, and I can run Myth front end on something thats quiet and works well.

      It would be nice if someone wrote a MythFE for the RaspberryPI systems or similar.

        • HighTech4US2
        • 8 years ago

        MythTV being perpetually beta and buggy convinced me to go with Windows 7/Windows Media Center.

        For all the supposed strengths of Linux and MythTV the non-helpfulness of the programmers/users was a complete turn off for me. So for those who promote Linux and MythTV as a better replacement for Windows I experienced the complete opposite.

        Linux and MythTV – buggy, always changing (non-stable), complex learning curve, snobby/useless support

        Windows 7 – Windows Media Center – works great, simple learning curve, very good support

      • Farting Bob
      • 8 years ago

      Until i can play blu-ray discs on my PC without having to rip it first or buy a hugely overpriced media player that is sluggish and bloated and purposely made obselete at some random point in the future then HTPC on the desktop still has a way to go.

      I have many blu-rays, but i have to rip them all first because there is no free software that will play all discs thanks to the stupid DRM and licensing costs.

        • HighTech4US2
        • 8 years ago

        With cheap TB+ hard drive prices (yes I know the current flood has resulted in temporary price increases) the rip-once play any time is the way to go.

        Have a look at MakeMKV (http://www.makemkv.com) as it is a simple solution to rip DVD and Blu-ray discs and is currently free while in beta.

        I currently have a 6 TB Raid-5 (4.5 TB usable) eSata external drive system hooked up to my Windows Media Center HTPC and just love the simple remote control select/click-to-play.

    • Corrado
    • 8 years ago

    As long as they don’t do away with the CableCARD support in it, and as long as they don’t drop MCE extender functionality in the xbox 360 and future xboxes, then thats fine by me.

    I rely on Win7MCE as a hub with a Ceton InfiniTV 4 card and my Xbox 360’s as cable boxes.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 8 years ago

      It’s weird; what you’re doing is what I thought they WANTED and here they seem to be scaling it back.

        • drfish
        • 8 years ago

        Yeah… I don’t get it… Windows is the hub already – why make that more difficult?

        • demani
        • 8 years ago

        Yeah-MS has just been to haphazard in their support for all this which is a shame because I really like the MCE environment. With a plugin for Hulu it does just about everything that a little set top box does, plus WAY more (like not require a sub for Hulu+).

        It’s just so frustrating to see a company do a solid job, then back off as they are really hitting their stride. And with the death of computer Boxee, the purchase of SageTV, and this roll back, the options are getting slimmer and slimmer (fortunately they also seem to be getting better).

          • Corrado
          • 8 years ago

          I’m sure TimeWarner, Comcast and Verizon are lobbying them to cut back in order to drive up their revenues. For $300 1 time, you can have a DVR that performs 10x better along with the customization of being able to remove commercials, etc, where as Comcast would rather you have a $12/mo HD box and/or a $23/mo DVR for ever. Its crazy because everyone that sees my setup is FLOORED by how good it works and how fast/smooth everything is.

          SOMEONE is getting in the way and trying to stop it, and it certainly isn’t MS, methinks.

            • sweatshopking
            • 8 years ago

            It may have been part of the deal for the new content agreements for xbox. I am just speculating, but ms is pushing into the livingrooms hard, and they’d rather you purchase content from them then torrent it, and the content providers would as well. I like media center, but i don’t use it. I generally use VLC or MPC and use my phone as a remote. I would use WMC but since the netflix app doesn’t work in canada (thanks netflix, always screwing us canadians) i haven’t bothered to use WMC much, so forgive my ignorance, but why do we really care? what does WMC do that XBMC (or any of the other dozen) doesn’t?

            • Corrado
            • 8 years ago

            CableCARD support, a true dvr and live tv. Xbmc and the like will Play media you have downloaded. Mce is a replacement for your cable box and dvr.

      • jpostel
      • 8 years ago

      I was a diehard TiVo user pretty much since it came out. I had 4 different models over the years, but the lag in features and upgrades pushed my towards alternatives.

      I tried MythTV several years ago, but the CableCARD support issue was what clinched it for me. Once I started to understand the finer points of CableCARD support, I was building a Vista box with the original HDHR for unencrypted and the original ATI tuners for encrypted.

      My current setup is a Win7 hub with HDHR Prime, a “server” for central keeper storage, and my trusty old ATI tuners in other PCs as backups.

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