Windows 8 media playback support explained

Windows 8 may not be able to play back DVDs via its native media player without paying extra for Windows Media Center. However, Microsoft says it is working to add better audio and video playback in both Windows 8 and Windows RT. In the latest post on the official Windows 8 blog, Microsoft goes into some details on how the OS will achieve better media support while also optimizing such support for the best battery life possible.

The blog post, written by Scott Manchester, group program manager for the Windows Media Platform and Technologies team, states:

With Windows 8 running on a Windows 8 certified PC, video decoding for common media formats will be offloaded to a dedicated hardware subsystem for media. This allows us to significantly lower CPU usage, resulting in smoother video playback and a longer battery life, as the dedicated media hardware is much more efficient than the CPU at media decoding.

You can see that CPU utilization for Windows 8 while running 720p VC1/H.264 video clips and webcam capture previews is far lower in Windows 8 than it is in Windows 7 in the chart above. In addition, audio playback has also been improved. Manchester states, "By batching up large chunks of audio data and doing all the processing for that chunk at one time, the CPU can stay asleep for over 100 times longer (over 1 second vs. 10ms), which can result in dramatically increased battery life during audio playback."

In addition to video and audio playback, Microsoft is working to make Windows 8 handle the kinds of real time video and audio features that have been enable in applications such as Skype. One such feature allows for Windows 8 to run such apps in low-latency mode. At the same time, Windows 8 also supports the use of HD cameras.

Window 8 Metro apps also support a wide variety of video and audio files. You can see the full list below:

The blog also talks about Windows 8 support for streaming paid video content from services such as Netflix. Microsoft said the OS will support adaptive bitrate streaming for such services along with the PlayReady feature that enables content protection for both downloaded and streamed videos.

The blog also talks about the improved version of Play To which was first launched in Windows 7. For Windows 8, the Play To feature will still allow Windows 8 devices to stream videos to other Play To supported video screens and monitors. Windows 8 will find any Play To supported video screens on your home network automatically. However, streaming video from Windows 8 Metro apps can only be done with Windows certified Play To receivers. An upcoming update for Microsoft's Xbox 360 console will enable Play To support.

The blog post also goes over 3D monitor support for Windows 8 along with a number of other new media playback additions.

Source: Microsoft | Images via Microsoft

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