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Windows 10 should help the Xbox One close some of the gaps vs. a Windows 7 HTPC w/ Media Center, but will die-hards buy in?

Introduced in 2002, Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFTWindows XP Media Center Edition (MCE) was billed as a tool that would turn your Windows PC into a digital video recorder (DVR) and media hub.  The star of the show was the titular Windows Media Center (WMC), which Microsoft had developed in the earlier half of the last decade under the codename "Freestyle."

Last Friday Microsoft announced that after more than a decade in the books, it was killing off the once prized product.

WMC had been a hyped feature in Windows XP MCE's immediate successors, Windows Vista and Windows 7.  WMC provided a mixture of media hub features, including a TV tuner with channel guides, compatible with a modest array of service provider cablecards and TV-style remotes, even.  

media center remote
Ricavision Remote

It also acted as a hub to gather up streaming video offerings, such as Netflix Inc.'s (NFLX) popular service.  Development remained active for several years after the initial launch, with a major update dubbed "Fiji" landing in 2008 under the title "TV Pack 2008"

Windows  7

But with Windows 8 Microsoft sent a clear signal that it didn't see a future for a media center PC.  Rather, it shifted its focus to the upcoming Xbox One, which launched in Nov. 2013.  The Xbox One was billed as Microsoft's media center solution of choice.

WMC was absent from Windows 8 and was only available in the "Media Center Pack" add-on for Windows 8 Pro or in the "Pro Pack" that was used to update Windows 8 to Windows 8 Pro.  But WMC lingered around, if only in the premium Windows SKU.

But last week at its BUILD 2015 conference Microsoft quietly announced the death of the software.  ZDNet's Ed Bott reports:

In a private meeting this week at the Build developers' conference in San Francisco, a Microsoft executive confirmed to me that there will be no update to the company's Media Center software for Windows 10.

The decision is a disappointment to the small but incredibly vocal army of Media Center enthusiasts, who had held out hope that a Windows 10 Media Center add-on, similar to the one offered for Windows 8, might appear at the last minute.

That's not happening. Any PC that is upgraded from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 will lose the Media Center functionality, and there's no way to get it back.

Apparently Windows 10's installer package will warn you if you try to install Windows 10 on a PC with WMC.

Windows 10 WMC

Bott points out that while disappointing to some, this news isn't exactly surprising as Microsoft's WMC development team was disbanded in 2009 after delivering the code for the Windows 7 version of WMC.  Bott suggests that fans should stick with Windows 7 for now for their home theater PC (HTPC).

While he doesn't promote it, the obvious other alternative is to buy an Xbox One to use as your HTPC-esque media hub.  That may not be an appealing choice for some WMC die-hards, but folks should bear in mind that with Windows 10 coming to the Xbox One, much of the gaps in functionality between an Xbox One and a traditional Windows HTPC should be filled in.

Sources: ZDNet, via Neowin





"If you can find a PS3 anywhere in North America that's been on shelves for more than five minutes, I'll give you 1,200 bucks for it." -- SCEA President Jack Tretton






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