Media Center enthusiasts still waiting for promised Windows 8 update

If you're waiting for the Media Center update for Windows 8, I've got some bad news for you. You can't get it now, and Microsoft's terse "no comment" probably you'll have to wait till the official consumer launch on October 26.

Microsoft’s small but enthusiastic cadre of digital media enthusiasts got a double whammy with Windows 8. First was Microsoft’s decision to stop development when Windows 7 shipped and delivering functionally identical code in Windows 8. Then, to add insult to injury, the one-time killer feature now requires Windows 8 Pro and is an extra-cost add-on.

Or it will be, when it’s finally available.

The Media Center code was available for the Windows 8 Release Preview, but it’s not publicly available for the RTM code that was released for Volume License customers, partners, and TechNet and MSDN subscribers in mid-August.

To unlock the Media Center features, you need a separate product key. Those keys aren’t available for sale or distribution even to the limited subset of Microsoft early adopters yet.

I’ve been bugging Microsoft for weeks to get an answer on this question, and today I got an answer. Sort of. A Microsoft spokesperson said the company had “nothing to announce at this time” about when the special product keys will be available.

Microsoft is on the hook for an undisclosed amount of license fees for each copy of Media Center it sells (my guess is that the number is around $10, but I’ve never received official confirmation). The license holders, notably Dolby Corporation, get paid for every copy, so giving the update away isn’t a palatable option.

The most likely scenario is that the Windows 8 Media Center Pack and the Windows 8 Pro Pack will be available on October 26, the same time that downloadable Windows 8 upgrades and OEM Personal Use Licenses will go on sale to the general public.

If that's true, the Media Center community can get some slight comfort from the wait. A limited-time upgrade promo allows users of any currently supported Windows version to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for $40, with the Media Center Pack thrown in free. That promotion starts on October 26 and ends on January 31, 2013.

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