While it’s technically a regression, and while it will surely make those of us who remember having to install DVD support on Linux from third-party repositories smile, it’s still a major change and a sign of things to come: Windows 8 will ship without support for DVD and Blu-ray playback.
Back in the day, you had to manually enable DVD playback after installing Linux. Distributions based out of the US were unable to include the required libdvdcss (or libdvdcss2), so users had to manually install the package afterwards. Smaller distributions, or those based outside of the US, were more liberal with including libdvdcss. The end result was loads of articles on the web detailing how to enable DVD playback support on Linux. It was a ritual of some sort.
In a way, it’s kind of poetic justice that Windows users will now have to jump through the same hoops. To cut costs, and since its use was declining anyway, Windows 8 will ship without support for DVD and Blu-ray playback. To enable it, you have to buy/install Windows Media Center, or rely on one of the many third party solutions. The same also applies to support for DBV-T/S, ISDB-S/T, DMBH, and ATSC.
“Globally, DVD sales have declined significantly year over year and Blu-ray on PCs is losing momentum as well. Watching broadcast TV on PCs, while incredibly important for some of you, has also declined steadily,” Microsoft details, “These traditional media playback scenarios, optical media and broadcast TV, require a specialized set of decoders (and hardware) that cost a significant amount in royalties.”
This should reduce the cost of a Windows license, and considering Windows 8 has a tablet-focus, it makes sense not to force OEMs to pay for something tablets won’t have anyway (optical drives). It’s a good thing for me – I haven’t had an optical drive in any of my PCs for years, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the same applies to more of you. Just ask yourself: when was the last time you really used your optical drive?
It’s also a sign of something larger within Microsoft: the company has become incredibly willing to cut cruft from their operating system, even when it comes to support for hardware. This is a good sign, since if there’s one thing that’s held Microsoft and Windows back, it’s that.
As far as the entire industry goes, it’s obvious that optical media are on their way out. Apple never even supported Blu-ray to begin with, and with more and more laptops being sold without an optical drive, it only makes sense to start phasing it out. Let’s face it – it’s never been a particularly good storage medium, in terms of capacity, reliability, and speed.
So, raise a cup of coffee, and good riddance, I say.