No Windows 8 DVD playback will mean increased costs, and consumer confusion

No Windows 8 DVD playback will mean increased costs, and consumer confusion

Summary: While Apple has a streamlined one-size-fits-all OS X edition that contains everything users needs, Microsoft is once again juggling features in order to make one edition of Windows more superior and desirable than another.

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ZDNet's Ed Bott reports that DVD playback has been cut from its upcoming operating system as Microsoft tries to give consumers a reason to buy the more expensive Windows 8 Pro edition.

Windows 8 users who want out-of-the-box DVD playback capability will not only have to purchase the higher-priced Pro edition, but also the optional Media Center Pack. This is bad news for consumers because it means increased costs, more confusion, and the potential for more 'crapware' to be installed on new PCs.

Currently, Windows Media Player handles DVD playback. With Windows 8, Microsoft is removing this functionality from Windows Media Player and shifting it into the optional Media Center component.

This represents a big change in how Windows works, given that Windows Media Player has had DVD playback support since version 6.1, the version that shipped with Windows 95 and Windows 98.

Microsoft has yet to explain how it intends to inform consumers of the removal of this feature. I expect that the first most people will know of this is when they try to play a DVD and are informed that they need to buy the upgrade.

Note that third-party software, both commercial and freeware, will be able to add DVD playback functionality to all Windows editions. The changes outlined here only affect the functionality built into the Windows operating system.

Microsoft says that the Media Center Pack will be available at "marginal costs". However, in order to have the option to buy this feature, users will have to be running the higher-priced Pro edition, or upgrade to this edition. Currently, the difference in price between Home Premium and Ultimate editions of Windows 7 stands at around $100. I would expect the difference between Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro to be similar given that the difference in features between the two editions is broadly the same.

That's a hefty tax on consumers who want to be able to play DVDs.

I agree that the decision to cut this feature is driven by the need to reduce costs. Decoders cost money for Microsoft to license. By reducing the codecs included as part of Windows, Microsoft is able to pass on the savings to the OEMs. Even a dollar or two saved per PC adds up for the OEMs as it is multiplied across millions of PCs sold.

However, because PC buyers expect to be able to play DVDs on their PC -- something that Windows users have been able to do for many years -- OEMs will be under pressure to include some level of DVD playback functionality on new PCs.

This gives the OEMs a potential revenue stream. While OEMs could bundle a free media player such as VLC Player on new PCs, what's more likely to happen is that they're going to cut deals with commercial DVD playback software makers to install cut-down versions of the software on pre-made systems. This software will be crippled or limited in some way, and a license will be required to lift the limitation and make full use of the software.

OEMs already install cut-down versions of commercial DVD and Blu-ray playback software such as CyberLink's PowerDVD or InterVideo's WinDVD onto some systems.

I think that it is admirable that Microsoft is actively looking for ways to shave the cost of Windows 8, but I feel that removing key functionality such as DVD playback from Media Player is a step too far and seems like a desperate attempt to up-sell the more expensive edition. I can see no other valid reason for removing this feature.

While Microsoft has simplified the Windows 8 editions on offer, it will create additional confusion by removing functionality that people expect, and making it an optional extra that they'll have to pay for.

I feel that Microsoft is making a big mistake here. While Apple has a streamlined one-size-fits-all OS X edition that contains everything users needs, Microsoft is once again juggling features in order to make the higher-priced edition of Windows more superior and desirable than the cheaper option, while at the same time giving OEMs yet more reason to install third-party crapware onto new systems.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons, Microsoft.

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Topics: Software, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Windows

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128 comments
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  • Did XP have DVD decoders by default?

    I don't think so. Yet no one ever really noticed. If you bought a machine with a DVD player, you had 3rd party software installed. If you bought a DVD player that could attach to a PC, you had 3rd party software in the box.
    mdemuth
    • No, it didn't

      I think we will go back to the XP situation.

      That, combined with the growing trend for laptops to come without optical drives, it isn't such a bad decision...

      And you always have VLC to fall back on.
      wright_is
      • Wait, what?

        ... "growing trend for laptops to come without optical drives" ... wha? Since when? Maybe the trend for Apple laptops is sans optical, but I've not yet seen any Wintel laptops without. Bear in mind that as used by most computer savvy folk, "laptop" is not the same thing as "netbook" ... netbooks typically don't have optical drives. Laptops? Pretty much all of them have optical drives.
        Gravyboat McGee
      • @Tivoller

        Look at the new trend for Ultrabooks, which makes up something like 30% of Notebook sales already, I don't personally need anything that small or light, but they are so thin, they can't fit optical drives in them.
        wright_is
      • No optical drives on portables

        @ Tivolier

        Microsoft and their OEMs copy everything Apple. This has been so for decades.

        So, if Apple makes portables without optical drives, you can be sure there will be Windows running portables without optical drives too.

        Guess, if Apple makes a portable without display, Microsoft & OEMs will follow too! :)
        danbi
        • You're joking, right?

          Apple hasn't had anything new since the Apple II, and the only thing new there was that it was cheap. Licensing Xerox PARC's work as their own is the only thing keeping them going.
          evilkillerwhale
      • @Tivolier

        Since when?
        At least since Intel, not Microsoft, started pushing the "Ultrabook" concept. The Dell XPS 13, for instance, doesn't have an optical drive.
        CarlitosLx
    • Nope

      This article is a prime example of spreading FUD. It is full of conslusory statements without considering all the angles. Microsoft is staying current by offering support of the latest decoders and cutting costs by eliminating native support for the older ones. The small percentage of people that need the functionality can download it / buy it for a small fee.
      gwartnet
      • small percentage?

        Who buys a laptop and doesn't expect DVD support out of the box? Nobody I know, or have ever heard of. Oh, and please define "conslusory" would ya? I couldn't find it in my dictionary.
        Gravyboat McGee
        • I cannot tell you...

          ...the last time I watched a DVD on my laptop. And DVDs are dying anyway. You think that with as many machines as are bundling Blu-Ray players, people won't have software to play their DVDs? You think the average buyer knows that they used to use Windows Media Player?
          evilkillerwhale
      • Not FUD

        1) It's not FUD when you're relaying information about a product.

        2) A "small fee"? $100 extra to get the Pro edition and then more money for the decoder? $120+ is not a small fee.

        3) Removing a standard feature that people have come to count on is never good business. This is a step in the wrong direction. People expect new operating systems to do more, not less.

        Believe me, Windows 8 will be a hard enough sell without pissing more people off by doing this.
        scophi
        • AKH planted a false idea...

          ... the full Wind8 Pro upgrade (which will work for basically everyone) is $40. And that includes DVD playback.
          evilkillerwhale
      • Fud is coming from you it seems.

        Small percentage of people? The vast majority of PCs/laptops out today have DVD drives, and millions like myself continue to use DVDs. We usually use my laptop at night to play DVDs in the bedroom, using WMP. Now Microsoft is saying I won't be able to simply load a DVD and play my DVD without first paying for some third party software or upgrade to Pro/WMC. This should be a core part of the OS, but Microsoft is deciding to take it away.
        dave95.
      • dave95: wait, what?

        [i]This should be a core part of the OS[/i]

        Are you honestly suggesting that DVD codecs should be a core part of the OS? Last I heard, media players were NOT supposed to be in the OS. The OS was only supposed to take care of file management and security, getting out of the way so you could run your applications. When did this shift in what should be a core part of an OS happen?

        Maybe to make things simpler, you could provide us with a list of functionality that should be provided as a core part of the OS. You could put an expiry date on your list if you choose because it sure seems that you change your list every time a new version of OS X and Windows come out.

        Sorry dave but Windows provides access to the DVD hardware and that should be a core part of the OS. What you do with the data after it is reliably pulled off the DVD is up to external applications and should NOT be a core part of the OS. Otherwise that is a major security issue. Wait, are DVD codecs a core part of OS X? Yikes, maybe that is why OS X is currently under so much malware attack.

        Finally, I got a big kick out of this:
        [i]We usually use my laptop at night to play DVDs in the bedroom, using WMP.[/i]

        Just curious, did you build your own laptop? If not, then your laptop came with software and codecs to play back DVDs. In other words, you pay $0 (above and beyond what you paid for the laptop) to enable DVD playback on your laptop.

        Now, what about all those poor MBA and Mac Mini owners? They can't play DVDs without spending extra cash on an external DVD reader. Where is your outrage for those poor people?

        So why are you whining again?
        toddbottom3
      • TIP: Download VLC, Get DVD features for free.

        I don't care if Windows 8 won't play DVD movies.

        I can't remember the last time I played DVD on my PC.

        If Windows 8 price will go down because of this removed feature, I'd welcome it! Besides, I can just install VLC, and the DVD problem is solved! For free!
        thenonhacker
      • Core OS business

        @ toddbottom3

        "The OS was only supposed to take care of file management and security, getting out of the way so you could run your applications."

        Oh my. You just proved my point, that Windows is an GUI on top of DOS. DOS, if you remember does just that "takes care of file management and gets in the way when you run your application. Right? So, why would anyone need real OS with real services, when they have have Windows aka GUI on top of DOS? :)

        Hope Microsoft does not share your understanding of what "OS" is. As troubled as their understanding is, they seem to try hard to move in the right direction recently.

        The DVD playback software has nothing to do with OS architecture etc. It's all about the money. Of course, for those not into religion --- there is life outside of Windows.
        danbi
        • Are you serious?

          I'm a little late to the party, but really?

          You sound like someone that used to be in my course at college. Windows hasn't been "[a] GUI on top of DOS." since Windows Me (released in September 2000, and even this version is arguable as to whether it's nothing more than a GUI) which was very quickly replaced by Windows XP (only 13 moths later in October 2001).

          Windows XP was based on the Windows NT line which never was "[a] GUI on top of DOS". There is no way at all that anything Todd says proved that Windows is "[a] GUI on top of DOS".

          Also, on the topic of what the 'core OS' should contain, the Windows Kernel is the core OS and as far as I know, it only manages the hardware, provides an interface for drivers to connect to, manages OS based security (user login and privileges and privilege escalation), and provides the Windows API to applications. If I left something out, feel free to correct me.

          Apart from the actual kernel functions. The rest of the software applications in Windows (like Windows Explorer, or Windows Media Player) are just that - software applications, installed on top of Windows just like any other.

          Finally, what does any of this have to do with religion? Seems rather random stating that there is a life outside of Windows if you're not into religion.
          Jason Frost
      • @Todd

        When I say core part of the OS, I mean Microsoft should have continued providing the proper DVD codecs (license) just like they've done with Vista and Win7. Continue offering full-featured DVD playback capability in the OS. You don't ever take away features, especially one that was offered since 2006. The ability to simply play DVDs should be a central part of any OS in 2012.

        [i]"Just curious, did you build your own laptop? If not, then your laptop came with software and codecs to play back DVDs. In other words, you pay $0 (above and beyond what you paid for the laptop) to enable DVD playback on your laptop."[/i]

        No. I upgraded to Win7 from Vista and Win7 came with not only WMC built-in, but again with the ability to play DVDs from the go. Obviously Win7 upgrade package did not include third party software, it came with that ability "built-in". I did not need to go hunting for crapware, annoyware software bugging you to upgrade to Pro just to play my DVDs.


        From Microsoft site:

        [b]For Windows 7

        Windows 7 Home Premium, Ultimate, and Enterprise come with DVD playback capability built in. If you're running Windows 7 Home Basic or Starter, you can upgrade your edition of Windows 7 to add full DVD capability.[/b]
        dave95.
      • re: Not FUD

        Sorry scophi it IS FUD. You can get the software for FREE on the internet. I even bought DVDs that offered to install DVD playback software. If DVD playback is important to you and you can't find the software for that for free then that's on you.
        BCF1968
    • Great, Windows 8 will ship with ...

      all the drawbacks of technology a decade ago.

      There's simply no excuse to release an operating system without innate DVD playback capabilities in 2012.
      lapland_lapin