When Apple debuted its skinny MacBook Air laptop in 2008, it caused quite a stir because it didn’t come with a CD/DVD drive. Some users were angry because you had to plug in an external drive to play a disc.
Now it’s Microsoft’s turn. The company announced last week that its soon-to-be-released Windows 8 operating system won’t play DVDs unless you pay to upgrade the Media Center component.
Even worse, the announcement was buried in the eighth paragraph of an official Microsoft tech blog…
Windows Media Player will continue to be available in all editions, but without DVD playback support. For optical discs playback on new Windows 8 devices, we are going to rely on the many quality solutions on the market, which provide great experiences for both DVD and Blu-ray.
“Quality solutions on the market” means you’ll have to find other software – some available free – to play DVDs. The result has been outrage from tech blogs like Cnet.com (“Microsoft angers users by cutting Media Center out of Windows 8”) and movie industry blogs like Deadline Hollywood (“Pay To Play DVD/Blu-Ray? Windows 8 Sucks”).
So why did the maker of the most popular operating system in the world strip out DVD playback? In its blog post, Microsoft notes the DVD business is “in sharp decline” and the move saves consumers money because Microsoft pays “a significant amount in royalties” to allow both its hardware and software to run licensed content.
Windows 8, which is supposed to debut next month (although preview copies are available now), will still let you play DVDs if you upgrade to a “Media Center Pack” at an as-yet-unannounced “marginal” cost.
Tech columnist Adrian Kingsley-Hughes at ZDNet is doubtful, saying, “it seems like a desperate attempt to up-sell the more expensive edition” and is “a hefty tax on consumers who want to be able to play DVDs.” Worse still, Hughes frets about how Microsoft will tell its customers, most of whom are not tech experts.
“It will create additional confusion by removing functionality that people expect, and making it an optional extra that they’ll have to pay for,” he says. “I feel that Microsoft is making a big mistake here.”
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