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The Final Insult? Microsoft Explains, Dumps on, Media Center in Windows 8

I’ve been fielding therapy-like emails from Windows Media Center fans and fanatics alike since last fall when Windows 8 head honcho Steven Sinofsky reveals that next to no one actually uses the software. But with this week’s latest Media Center insult delivered via the Building Windows 8 Blog, Microsoft may have crossed a line for these fans. And I’m not looking forward to the email I’ll be getting about this little transgression.

Put simply, Windows Media Center is no longer apart of Windows though the post specifically says that “Windows Media Center will be available in Windows 8”. That is not entirely factual. Media Center will be available as a paid add-on only for those who purchase Windows 8 Pro. And though we already knew this, I find it hilarious to read the various “confirmed” blog posts that are springing up this week. Microsoft explicitly announced this a long time ago, folks.

We suspected that the version of Windows Media Center that Microsoft would provide at a “nominal fee” to Windows 8 Pro users only would in fact be the exact same version of Media Center that’s currently available in Windows 7, and this week’s blog post does in fact “confirm” that, noting that Windows 8 Pro will “fully support the capabilities of Media Center as it is in Windows 7 ... it will maintain the functionality that was in Windows 7.”


Allow me to string together phrases from this post that add up to what will be perceived as a huge insult to Windows Media Center which, like so many Microsoft products before it, was thrown out there and left to wither on the vine with nary a developer adding features or improvements to it for years on end. It goes like this:

“Windows 8 will deliver a world-class video and audio entertainment experience” that provides “a comprehensive video and audio platform for developers to build engaging and differentiated apps.” It’s “optimized for system reliability, battery life, and performance” and is “a robust platform” that will access the “online sources such as YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, or any of the other myriad of online and downloadable video services” that “the vast majority of” actual users are using.

None of that applies to Windows Media Center.

In other words, that whole paragraph describes the new media features in Windows 8—which, by the way, are absolutely terrible in the Consumer Preview—but Windows Media Center, which was wonderfully fleshed out over a full decade and would have made a terrific all-in-one Metro-style app ... is left to die. Left unsaid: It would have been very easy to add support for online video services to Media Center.

Media Center, Microsoft says, is old-school. It’s about DVD and broadcast TV consumption. You know, the stuff your grandparents do. It’s not new and shiny and fresh. So it’s getting tossed to the side in the fervent push to “reimagine” Windows.

Oddly, this week’s post does expand on how you’ll be able to get Windows Media Center.

Windows 8 Pro users, as we knew, will purchase Windows Media Center. This will happen as part of something called the Windows 8 Media Center Pack. (Pricing TBD).

Windows 8 users, however, will be able to purchase another new package, called the Windows 8 Pro Pack, which adds Windows Media Center as well as some underlying capabilities like DVD playback. (Pricing also TBD). Does the Windows 8 Pro Pack equate to an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro? (It appears so, yes, based on the graphic in the post.) And does the existence of this pack further suggest that Windows Anytime Upgrade will NOT be part of Windows 8? (UPDATE: As many have noted, Microsoft is replacing WAU with something called Add Features to Windows 8," which is a great name for something that will trigger a payment.)

I know, I know. Expecting clarity is a bit much to ask these days. I can dream.

By the way, I just ordered a new Ivy Bridge-based PC this week. And yes, I did get it with an integrated OTA-based TV tuner so I can use Media Center. Just saying.


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