The next version of Windows Media Center Edition may not support the playback of high definition formats out of the box, according to a Microsoft spokesman.
Despite being part of the consortium pushing the new HD DVD standard, Microsoft has admitted that Windows Vista Home Premium, which replaces MCE at the end of the year, may require an external codec to facilitate playback of HD DVD movies.
"Vista's architecture will recognize both HD DVD and Blu-ray DVD," a spokesman said "However, current plans for Media Center support of either of these formats is unknown at this time. We do know that there will be a great HD DVD and Blu-ray DVD experience for Media Center either at Vista launch or soon after as either an extensible application or natively in MCE."
Optimists might hope for native support from day one but there exists a real possibility that support may arrive late, and require the purchase of third party playback software, such as CyberLink's PowerDVD.
This, sadly, is nothing new. It my surprise you to learn that if you purchase Media Center 2005 today you will not be able to play even standard DVDs out of the box. Users require an MPEG2 codec which Microsoft would rather not pay the licence fee for, so PowerDVD, WinDVD et al must be installed.
As it happens, these excellent software DVD players are often bundled by ATI and NVIDIA with their retail graphics cards but the fact remains that in promoting Media Center as the definitive home theatre operating system, they allude to functionality that doesn't exist in a standard installation.
Microsoft may argue that MCE has always been aimed at system integrators who themselves would install the necessary codec before delivering pre-built systems to customers, but once again, enthusiasts get a raw deal. Where do you stand - should Microsoft support HD DVD playback (and blu-ray for that matter) as standard? Let your voice be heard in our News Discussion