On Thursday evening, Microsoft announced that the regular version of Windows Media Player, which will be in all versions of Windows 8, won't be able to play DVDs anymore like it can with Windows 7. Users would have to upgrade to a paid version of Windows Media Center to enable DVD features.
This decision has been slammed by many Windows users. Now the official Windows 8 blog has posted an update that attempts to answer some of the questions raised by the decision to remove DVD playback from Windows 8's Media Player.
Microsoft confirmed that for Windows 7, it had to pay royalties to Dolby and to the owners of the MPEG-2 decoder to enable DVD playback in Windows Media Player. The blog states:
In Windows 7, we decided to make these codecs available broadly in most editions, except Windows 7 Home Basic (available in some emerging markets) and Windows 7 Starter editions (available for netbooks and some emerging markets). That means royalties related to DVD playback in Windows 7 have been paid broadly, regardless of whether or not the PC has an optical drive. Based on sales and usage, we supplied codecs to a very large number of PCs that were not capable of playing DVDs or simply did not ever play DVDs.
The FAQ also claims that licensing those technology for Windows 8 would cost a lot of money. It states:
So when you add all this up and apply to all Windows PCs, it is an ongoing cost of hundreds of millions of dollars per year to the PC ecosystem, well over a billion dollars over the lifecycle of the operating system and yet by most predictions the majority of PCs will not even be capable of playing DVDs.
Microsoft believes that if a new PC with Windows 8 has some kind of optical drive installed, it's "most likely" that it would have some kind of DVD software included.
But what if you have Windows 7 and still want to play DVDs when you upgrade your PC to Windows 8? Microsoft says, "If there is existing third-party playback software the Windows Upgrade Assistant will help determine if this software is compatible with Windows 8 and you will have the option to keep it during the upgrade to Windows 8." Otherwise you will be out of luck with the upgrade to Windows 8 unless you upgrade it with the Windows Media Center pack (or use free third-party software).