Yesterday Microsoft outlined the different editions of Windows 8. There are two editions aimed at consumers, Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro, another one for ARM devices called Windows RT and one for Software Assurance customers. While no price details have been announced, if you make use of the Media Center functionality in Windows 8, then it is likely that your next PC purchase is going to cost you more.
Currently, home users have a choice between three Windows 7 editions - Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate. Most home users go for Home Premium as it's the primary edition offered by the OEMs, while power users go for Ultimate.
Under Windows 7, Media Center support is included as standard with Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate editions. This changes with Windows 8, as Media Center support will, according to Microsoft, only be available "as an economical 'media pack' add-on to Windows 8 Pro."
This has two effects. First, it removes the cost of licensing Dolby support and codecs from the base price of Windows 8, or at least one would hope that Microsoft reflects this saving in the price. This should mean a cheaper base version of Windows 8, although by how much remains to be seen.
However, for those users who actually use Media Center, things are going to get more expensive. Not only are they going to have to shell out for the Pro version of Windows 8, which will undoubtedly come with a Pro price tag. Currently on Dell's website, the difference in price between Windows 7 Home Premium and Ultimate is a whopping $100. That's a hefty tax for consumers to have to pay just to have access to one feature. Not only that, but consumers are also going to have to purchase the 'media pack' add-on. That's a dual kick in the teeth for those who have supported Microsoft's Media Center efforts over the years.
I can come up with no compelling reason -- other than profiteering -- why the Media Center option couldn't be offered available on the standard edition of Windows 8.
For a complete listing of feature differences between the editions, check out the table here.