Citing declining DVD and Blu-ray disc sales, Microsoft is making the tough decision to not support optical disc playback in Windows 8's default Media Center app. Don't panic just yet, this isn't the final nail in the DVD's coffin, but it might as well be as digital solutions become more popular.
Microsoft's always shown a great amount of support for digital distribution and with Windows 8, it wants you to forget about physical media once and for all.
Posted over on the MSDN Blogs, Microsoft's President of Windows Steven Sinofsky says that the company's data shows users are watching video primarily through online services such as YouTube and Netflix. The optical disc is basically an endangered species and Microsoft doesn't want to preserve it anymore:
On the PC, these online sources are growing much faster than DVD & broadcast TV consumption, which are in sharp decline (no matter how you measure--unique users, minutes, percentage of sources, etc.). Globally, DVD sales have declined significantly year over year and Blu-ray on PCs is losing momentum as well. Watching broadcast TV on PCs, while incredibly important for some of you, has also declined steadily. These traditional media playback scenarios, optical media and broadcast TV, require a specialized set of decoders (and hardware) that cost a significant amount in royalties.
So, no DVD or Blu-ray playback by default on new Windows 8 PCs. It's going to be mighty hilarious when non-computer-savvy shoppers bring their new laptops home only to discover it doesn't play DVDs (or so they will think). Anybody else predicting a huge uptick in calls to manufacturer hotlines?
There is a simple solution, though. Just install the fantastic (and free) VideoLAN (VLC) player (or any media app that plays discs) to your PC and it should run all of your DVDs just fine.
For a company that's built its entire empire playing it safe with incremental updates and familiar features, Microsoft sure is taking a radical approach with Windows 8. Take this week's news that Microsoft will be killing off the Windows Live account system. In its place will be "Microsoft account." It's simple and memorable enough to not have any problems spanning Microsoft's different platforms — Xbox, Windows or Windows Phone —. Six years ago, Microsoft would have never released the refreshing live tiles that is the Metro UI, or even think about killing the "Windows Live" brand or embrace digital distribution channels with such enthusiasm.
In light of this revelation, we have to wonder one thing about the Xbox 360's successor — will it nix support for DVD playback out of the box too? There are already rumors that say the next Xbox will not have an optical drive. And with Microsoft pushing its Xbox Live video services so hard, we're inclined to believe Microsoft could kill default DVD playback (just for videos) in its next console, if the "missing" feature in Windows 8 isn't missed by users.