According to Ars Technica, the latest beta of Windows 8 does not contain any sign of Media Center, this had led to a lot of discussion in the community and some consternation but should we really be panicking?
My simple answer has to be no.
Firstly this is an early beta – we really do not know what Microsoft’s plans are at the moment. We may know some more at the Build conference later this year but I suspect even then we may only get a few hints at the grand plan.
Secondly, we do know from the Windows Team Blog that two areas the Windows 8 team are focussing on are “Application and Media Experience” and “Media Platform.” Does this mean Media Center, possibly not, does this mean some integration of Media Center like functionality into other parts of Windows 8, maybe, but we really just don’t know at this point.
Thirdly and, probably most importantly, things that disappear from betas often appear in other forms. There was a bit of an outcry, for instance, when various parts of Windows Live vanished from the Windows 7 betas but almost all of those reappeared later as part of the Windows Live download.
As many people have suggested (in particular I would like to give a shout out to Adam Thursby of The Digital Media Zone who has posted some really sensible comments on this matter on the MVP discussion group) this latter thought makes a great deal of sense. Producing a lean mean fighting machine of a Windows 8 but with the ability to download those bits we want to add on should make the core product a lot less bloated. Also remember the core Windows 8 experience has to work across hardware platforms including non-x86 such as Arm and the like, and that might be a lot easier if some things are taken out.
Also this idea of Media Center as separate download might explain the recent news about Dolby Technologies not being licensed for every copy of Windows 8. It would make sense if the license was per download. We should also remember that Windows 8 is supposed to have its own store and it may be that Media Center could be a charged for download to cover the license costs.
Having said that whilst we can speculate as much as we like at the moment it is just too early to say what Microsoft will or won’t do. We can be concerned, we can express our desire that the Media Center technology is retained in some way but for now we will just have to wait and see. After all we can always stick with Windows 7 – at least whilst the guide data holds out.