Windows 8 and Windows Media Center

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CNET Editor

Nic Healey can usually be found on a couch muttering about aspect ratios and 7.1 channel sound - which is helpful given that he's the home entertainment guy at CNET.

Confused about what's happening to Windows Media Center in the upcoming Windows 8 release? You're definitely not alone.

Windows Media Center: not quite entirely gone.
(Credit: Microsoft)

As part of Windows 7, Windows Media Center — yes, we apologise for the spelling, but it's the correct name for it, according to Microsoft — was a fairly simple and quite thoroughly useful addition to the operating system.

Using Media Center, you could watch, record and even pause live TV. You could set up photo slideshows, play music and, combined with HomeGroup, easily share media to other devices around the home — even the Xbox.

Media Center supported a good range of audio and video file formats, including AAC, AVCHD, MPEG-4, WMV, WMA, AVI, DivX, MOV, XviD and more. Not surprisingly, it was a pretty popular feature, and particular handy on the bigger-screen all-in-one touchscreen PCs.

Many people are wondering what the deal will be under Windows 8, and it's a good question. It's important to remember that there are four flavours of Windows 8: Windows RT, Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 Enterprise.

Out of these, only Windows 8 Pro has Windows Media Center capabilities. More importantly, Media Center doesn't come by default; it's a separate download. It was initially rumoured to have an additional cost involved as well, but Microsoft is now saying that it will be free for Pro.

It's important to note that this doesn't mean that you won't be able to play videos or listen to music with other versions of Windows 8; there's still Xbox Music and Xbox Video to handle playback of files, and you'll be able to add third-party players such as the popular VLC Player. You just won't get the additional Media Center functionality.

This is a pretty deliberate move from Microsoft. Media Center is getting a bit long in the tooth, and it's been a while since it got much of an update. It seems as though Microsoft is using the Windows 8 launch as a chance to clean house a little.

So remember, if you're a Windows Media Center user and want to stay that way, even after you upgrade to Windows 8, the Pro is what you'll want to purchase.

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JBL1977 posted a comment   

if you had trouble using media center....I wouldn't be surprised if you are also a 12:00 flasher.

Also, Media Center when used with the 10-foot interface is the ultimate media solution.

At my disposal on 4 TVs in my house with quiet efficient PCs and a server, I have 600HD movies, 50,000 songs, every home video and digital photo I have accessible. Then there is the online content such as Netflix, XM etc....

It may not be a big loss to you and that's too bad....because it says something negative....but not about the product.


JohnD7 posted a comment   

I won't miss it. I always found Windows Media Center confusing to use. Every time I tried to watch a DVD with it (the only thing I ever used it for) I had to figure out how to use it all over again. Normally I would finally stumble on how to start the DVD movie.

I'll be glad to use alternative apps for my media. In general I prefer to use a specific tool for each type of media; one for music, one for DVD movies, one for photos, etc. I find the do all media tools don't do anything well.


lalex81 posted a comment   

I might have used the Media Center a handful of times in years. Not a big loss.


MuneerM posted a comment   

Any idea about the price of Windows 8 pro?


tazza21 posted a reply   

its $69 introductory price until 31/01/2013

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