Media Center Free for Windows 8 Pro Users
Customers who buy Windows 8 Pro will be able to get Media Center at no extra cost. The offer will be available until January 31, 2013.
Windows Media Center is an entertainment hub for PC users, which supports TV, movies and music playback. Microsoft noted back in May that Media Center was going to be an extra charge for Windows 8 PC buyers. The plan was for Media Center to be bundled with PCs as sold by original equipment manufacturers or it would be an optional, fee-based download.
Today, Microsoft announced that Media Center is available for free to Windows 8 Pro licensees, but this offer is only available from October 26, 2012 to January 31, 2013. Windows 8 Pro users need to download a product key from Microsoft at this page to add the program, which installs via Windows 8's "add features" controls.
The deal is limited to one product key per e-mail address. While the addition of Media Center would seem to be a consumer offering, Microsoft may be extending it to business licensees, subject to the one product key per e-mail address limitation. Here's how Microsoft's FAQ describes the deal:
"The promotion is for individual customers like students, home users, and enthusiasts. Organizations can be eligible subject to this maximum limit per organization."
One of the benefits of having Media Center is that users will have access to DVD playback. While it's somewhat surprising, Microsoft's announcement in May explained that Windows Media Player for Windows 8 won't support DVD playback at all. Instead, Microsoft expects its customers to use some third-party application (or Media Center) to play DVDs. Another surprise announced at that time is that Windows RT devices, which run on ARM hardware, won't have Windows Media Player at all because Microsoft did not build a version of the Player to run on Windows RT systems. Similarly, Windows RT systems, such as the currently available Surface RT tablets, don't have Media Center.
Microsoft sells three Windows 8 editions -- Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 Enterprise, with the latter edition available to volume licensees. The Pro edition adds some features, such as Bitlocker, encryption and Group Policy support, that pertain more to business users. Those Windows 8 users who want to get Media Center must first upgrade to Windows 8 Pro, which costs $69.99 for a limited time (from October 26, 2012 to January 31, 2013). With that upgrade in place, the Media Center addition is then available for free within the offer's limited time period.
Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.