There was something of an outcry when Microsoft announced that Windows Media Center would only be available as an add-on to the Pro version of Windows 8. Microsoft has clarified that it will also be available to users of the Standard Windows 8 edition — but you will still have to effectively upgrade to Windows 8 Pro to get it.
As we’ve explained before, Windows 8 will come in just three editions: Standard, Pro and RT (the version designed for non-PC devices using ARM processors). When that version plan was announced, Microsoft said that Media Center would be an add-on (rather than a distinct release), and would only work with the Pro release. While we don’t have pricing yet, it’s clear that the Pro version will be the most expensive Windows 8 flavour. Media Center has been included in the consumer preview of Windows 8, and the news that it wouldn’t be part of the standard full release caused concern amongst enthusiasts for the platform.
In a post on the Building Windows 8 blog, Microsoft has now backed away from that stance a fractional amount and explained how the upgrade process will work. Users running Windows 8 Pro will be able to purchase a Windows 8 Media Center Pack add-on (via the Add Features to Windows 8 control panel option). If you’re on Windows 8 Standard, you’ll be able to purchase a Windows 8 Pro Pack which upgrades your system to Windows 8 Pro and also adds the Media Center features. Pricing for those options hasn’t been released yet (we don’t know the prices of the general versions yet either). It’s also not clear if existing Media Center owners running Windows 7 will have a cheaper upgrade path to Pro.
The post also outlines why Microsoft has taken that approach. The short answer? It doesn’t want to include Media Center in every release because the cost of licensing codecs for playback increases the overall cost of Windows, and it thinks TV and physical media access is less relevant in an era where an increasing number of people consume video via the browser.
Making Windows Media Center available in Windows 8 [Building Windows 8]