Microsoft has pounded another nail in the coffin for optical media with the revelation that it won't be including DVD playback support by default in Windows 8. With a post on the Building Windows 8 blog yesterday, the company explained that DVD and Blu-ray playback as well as watching broadcast TV on PCs is in decline, and thus it no longer feels that the cost of licensing specialized decoders across all copies of Windows is justified.
Windows Media Player will continue to be offered in all versions of Windows 8 and allow playback for internet video and other files, but without DVD playback capability. Instead, those who need the functionality can purchase the Windows Media Center upgrade separately, or use third-party software.
The Windows Media Center update will be available to Windows 8 customers via the Add Features to Windows 8 control panel (formerly known as Windows Anytime Upgrade), bringing full integration with DVD playback, broadcast TV recording and playback, and VOB file playback. Exactly how much the upgrade will cost should be announced closer to Windows 8's launch, but Microsoft says "it will be in line with marginal costs".
While the move might seem a bit drastic it probably will be just a minor annoyance considering there are tons of free third-party video players out there that support DVD playback, including the popular VLC. Moreover, Windows 8 will run on a variety of form factors that don’t have optical drives to play DVDs, including tablets and ultrabooks, so the decision to avoid paying licensing fees for these devices seems reasonable.
That said, faithful Media Center users will still be disappointed with news that it will be sold as a separated add-on, rather than being integrated into the OS as was the case with the last two releases of Windows.