Microsoft has released more details about Windows 8's entertainment chops, confirming that Windows Media Centre will be a paid-for add-on - and mandatory if users want DVD playback support.
All current versions of Windows include bundled software for playback of DVDs, requiring third-party packages only if Blu-ray playback is required. Windows 8, by contrast, will mandate the installation of Windows Media Centre or a third-party equivalent before DVDs can be played.
'Windows Media Player will continue to be available in all editions, but without DVD playback support,
' Microsoft's Bernardo Caldas revealed in a blog post
late last night. 'For optical discs playback on new Windows 8 devices, we are going to rely on the many quality solutions on the market, which provide great experiences for both DVD and Blu-ray.
The dropping of DVD playback support comes as Microsoft announces a deal with Dolby to, ironically enough, improve the audiovisual capabilities of its new operating system. Under the deal, all Windows 8 releases - including the ARM-compatible Windows RT - will include support for Dolby Digital Plus 5.1-channel audio as well as Dolby Digital stereo audio.
Dolby Digital Plus support will, however, be limited to downloaded or streamed content: playback of Dolby Digital Plus content from optical media will, as with DVD and Blu-ray playback, require third party software.
Dolby Digital Plus joins AAC, WMA, MP3 and PCM and M4A, ASF, MP3 and WAV containers as the bundled audio codecs for release with Windows 8. Microsoft has also confirmed that H.264, VC-1, WMV, and MPEG 4 Part 2 video will be supported in AVI, MPEG-2 TS, MP4 and ASF containers. Other formats, such as FLAC, MKV and OGG, will require third-party codec installation.
For those looking to add Media Centre to Windows 8, there's some good news: the add-on will be available for all consumer releases with the sole exception of Windows RT. Using the 'Add Features to Windows 8' menu, users can install the Windows 8 Media Centre Pack on to Windows 8 Pro; those who purchased the cheaper Windows 8 release will instead be expected to buy the Windows 8 Pro Pack, which upgrades the system to Windows Pro and includes the Media Centre Pack as a bundle.
While the upgrade adds DVD playback support, it's only operational through Media Centre itself; even with the Media Centre Pack installed, Windows Media Player will be unable to play back DVDs. The upgrade also adds DBV-T/S, ISDB-S/T, DMBH and ATSC broadcast recording and playback where compatible hardware is present, and direct playback of VOB files.
What Microsoft isn't yet sharing is the price, stating only that the upgrade will 'be in line with marginal costs.