If you haven’t heard already, Windows 8 has one huge chunk of software missing that used to be included by default: Windows Media Center. Due to media decoding licensing costs that OEMs have to pay for DVD playback capabilities, Microsoft has removed Windows Media Center from Windows 8 completely.
There are two ways to get it back if you want it. If you bought the basic version of Windows 8, then you will have to purchase a add-on called Windows 8 Pro Pack by using the Add Features to Windows 8 option in the Control Panel. Earlier this was called Windows Anytime Upgrade. This basically upgrades you to Windows 8 Pro with Media Center.
If you have Windows 8 Pro, then you simply add features to Windows 8 and choose Windows Media Center. Either way, you’ll now have to pay for Windows Media Center. By default, Windows Media Player is still included with both versions of Windows 8. So what does Windows Media Center do that Windows Media Player does not?
Here is the extra features that Windows Media Center adds to Windows 8:
- DVD playback ability (only in Windows Media Center, not Windows Media Player)
- Ability to record broadcast TV
- Ability to playback DBV-T/S, ISDB-S/T, DMBH, and ATSC
- Ability to playback VOB files
So if you want any of these additional features, you will need to purchase Windows Media Center in Windows 8. As of right now, the pricing for the media pack add-on is still not known. Microsoft says it will be “economical”, meaning probably a small amount of money.
Even though Microsoft has removed Windows Media Center from Windows 8, it won’t affect most consumers in any noticeable way for several reasons. Firstly, most Windows 8 PCs will come with some DVD playback software installed, probably by the PC manufacturer like Dell, HP, etc. If you are upgrading your Windows 7 machine to Windows 8, you will have to download third-party software like VLC Media Player to playback DVDs. Anybody wanting to watch Blu-ray discs already had to pay for playback software, so there is no change there.
Secondly, a lot of video watching has moved from DVDs to online streaming from YouTube, Netflix, etc. It can also play videos from HD camcorders in AVCHD format. Windows 8 supports all of these video formats and decoders by default. Here is a list of the audio and video decoders supported by Windows 8:
Video – H.264, VC-1/WMV, MP4 Pt 2, AVI, MPEG-2 TS, MP4, and ASF
Audio – DD+, AAC, WMA, MP3, PCM, M4A, ASF, WAV
The interesting thing is that Metro style apps can also include additional decoders of their own if they want. So a Metro style app could include other decoders for FLAC, MKV, OGG, etc for use within that specific app.
Overall, removing Media Center probably helped drop the price of Windows 8 and won’t negatively affect most users. If you really need those extra features, especially the ability to watch and record TV in Windows 8, the cost of purchasing the add-on media pack will be minor.
What are your thoughts on Microsoft removing Windows Media Center from Windows 8? Will you be purchasing the media pack add-on or not?