Okay, so we’re well into the final development stage for Windows 8. Cool, we’re getting a “much-needed” refresh of Windows 7 which, to my mind, doesn’t actually need to be refreshed in any way whatsoever. But then again I’m a stubborn mule, and I like not having to change the way I do things. I adapt and change when its necessary, when it benefits me and how I approach my work. So Windows 8, while I’m testing it, remains a little alien for me, and more of an irritation at best than pure innovation. I’m warming to it, but don’t quote me on that just yet.

A "modest" DVD collection for movie buffs

So,  I heard recently that they’re cutting out DVD Play in Windows 8 and only including it as an extra purchase through the Windows Store when the OS goes golden. HTPC owners are already shaking their heads. I’m quite sure I remember how this all plays out, and its not good for Microsoft or their reputation.

See, the original plan with Vista when people were going over the Longhorn beta was to cut out DVD Playback support and rather giving buyers the option of either buying the Media Center pack for around $20 (this was back in 2006). After that, you could play DVDs, HD-DVDs and Blu Ray titles all off your computer or HTPC – a ludicrous idea, really, for 2006 when the internet wasn’t as entrenched into society as it is now. Okay, I admit, you could use something like VLC, or Media Monkey or even Media Player Home Cinema to give you the codecs and support you needed to keep watching your copy of The Shawshank Redepmtion over and over again. But that cuts out a huge market of people who don’t know they can do that.

Pictured: A lot of countries that still prefer XP. First time I've seen use of the OS being highlighted as a danger.

Lets stop and consider all the people who run Windows – that’s a large number of users, easily on the other side of 1.2 billion users worldwide. That pie is split into business licenses and ones sold to the public either separately or with hardware. A larger number still of those in the public domain don’t change their default browser, or even consider other options. As of this year, Windows XP still sits at 32.9% market share, an astounding feat considering the platform is ten years old. With the jump to Vista and 7, many still left their machines at default, including their browsers and video codecs.

I know many people who are still satisfied with Internet Explorer 8. Yes, they’re an anomaly in the minds of guys like me who know better, but they’re representative of the majority of users who would be hurt moving to Windows 8. Microsoft was forced to support them when Vista was released after a long and drawn-out public outcry and calls for a boycott. HTPC enthusiasts who had a decent setup with XP Media Center Edition had a tantrum when it was announced that playback was a paid-for option. Plainly, the landscape the Microsoft envisioned for its customers just wan’t ready for a major shift away from consuming content on optical disc-based media. On the flip side of the coin, people may have been ready to make the transition to disc-less media, but Linux XMBC servers weren’t an option six years ago.

Yes, that's Obama taking notes on an iPad 2. The world is moving forward, but slowly.

Businesses who standardise on a setup for all their computers also won’t be allowing extra programs into their repertoire of random programs that the I.T. department has to support. Its not enough that people are mucking up security systems set in place by domain administrators by bringing in their iPads and Blackberries for work, but if they have to start supporting Chrome, VLC and any other program people use nilly-willy to get their job done easier or in a different way, that opens up holes in a system’s defence and only gives guys like me a headache in the long run.

If Microsoft is genuinely going to gun for cutting support and relying on third parties to make up for it if people won’t pay for the as-yet-undefined license fee, they can say goodbye to Windows 8 sales for businesses. Tablets won’t be affected for the most part, but Windows Media Center does have built-in support for playing movies from the Video_TS folder and, with the right plugin, ISO images of DVDs. Cutting out Blu Ray support for the majority of users who buy computers with Blu Ray drives won’t win you brownie points.

Its a scam, I know.

“But why,” I hear you ask; “are they doing this again?” You can thank Motorola for bringing that point forward. Miklos reported last week that sales of Windows 7 and the Xbox 360 were halted in Germany because Motorola filed an injunction, claiming that Microsoft was using a patented form of video compression which Motorola owns the rights to. Yeah, if you followed that link, Motorola really does thing that the license is worth $4 billion a year. They’re not pulling your socks, that’s what they genuinely believe is owed to them.

Going back in time, Microsoft’s reason for not supporting DVD playback in Vista was that the licenses for DVD playback are costly. They’re now moving forward with this in Windows 8, recouping the license cost through selling the Media Center capability at a fee. Apparently this works for them, since apparently many Windows users stream video already and don’t need the option anymore.

Oh hai, Microsoft. I live in South Africa. The closest I get to video streaming is Youtube. Can I watch titles off Hulu? Nope, sorry, country not supported. Crunchyroll? Maybe next decade. How about Netflix? Nope, just Chuck Testa with another failure to understand a world outside the American market by Microsoft. Honestly, its throwing the baby out with the bathwater. If you want to cut out those license fees, start supporting open formats. Ogg, Matroska and FLAC are all free to implement and MKV files in particular are favoured in the video-sharing community for having a higher quality and smaller file size.

Educate your standard users by telling them there are other options, but offer the Media Player option if they prefer your solution. For businesses, you owe them support by default as your operating system is already a world standard. If you really feel like going and changing the EULA and SLA you accepted/signed with companies like Dell, HP and IBM, be my guest.

In short, I’m not supporting your money-grab. You seem to have managed just fine with over half a billion sales of Windows 7, and you can certainly keep paying up that license while the rest of the world plays catch-up. I support moving with the times, but this isn’t the way to do it. I know its a hard decision, but keep paying that license until DVDs become obsolete and keep advertising alternatives to people who don’t know about them. You may end up sending them to the Linux or Mac OSX camp, but its the nature of the beast today – pay exorbitant fees to keep up a standard for your customers or let them have a choice in the matter.

Source: Tom’s Hardware

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