Big News: Microsoft utters the words “Media Center” (updated)

media-center-white_thumb News As usual, the buildup to Build, and what will be revealed about Windows 8 and its surrounding ecosystem, is much more about what Microsoft is NOT saying than what it has.  After the Windows 8 demo at this summer’s D8 conference, where Steven Sinofsky and Julie Larson-Green revealed that the new tablet interface for Windows 8 would run apps written in HTML5 and JavaScript (throwing .Net developers into a tizzy), not much new has been revealed about the new OS, expected to be previewed at Build and released sometime next year.  Oh yes we’ve heard about the Ribbon in Windows Explorer, and a bit of esoterica about faster file moves, but much remains to be revealed.

Well yesterday, in another epic (or at least epically long) blog post, Steven Sinofsky hinted for the first time about the future of Media Center:

In this, and a subsequent post, I want to talk about four topics in particular: Feedback (which I’ll cover today), the Ribbon, Metro, and Media Center. I hope to add a bit of additional “focus, light, and magnification” without distorting the bigger picture here.

Granted, he didn’t say much, other than that it’s on his list of things to talk about, but at least (we think) we know now that Media Center will be included, in some form, in Windows 8.

UPDATE:  A new blog post by Steven Sinofsky has just been posted, and he makes it clear that Windows Media Center will continue to be included with at least some versions of Windows:

While not a central topic of feedback, I received about 50 emails about Media Center. I want to reassure customers that Media Center will definitely be part of Windows 8. No doubt about it.

Sinofsky goes on to say that Media Center will not be included in early builds of Windows 8, along with things like DVD Creator and Windows 7 games, but that Media Center will make it into at least some SKUs of Windows 8.

Sinofsky also notes the low usage numbers of Media Center, with only 6% of Windows 7 users globally launching it.  Perhaps if it was better marketed, with fewer conflicting products (see below), it might be faring better?

There has been a lot of speculation recently that Microsoft would seek to consolidate its various Media player offerings: currently we have Window Media Center, Windows Media Player, the Zune software, Windows Live Picture Gallery, Windows Live Movie Maker, and probably a few more in nooks and crannies lurking about in Windows somewhere.  Then there’s Xbox Live, of course, coming as we know in some form to the PC.

The truth is, we really don’t know what direction Microsoft is heading in regards to both Media Center and the media capabilities now available through Windows Live, or how they will fit into Windows 8.  Will we get a full blown consolidation?  Would Windows Live Essentials even make sense anymore in a Windows 8 app-centric model (and what becomes of Windows 7 users?  Will Microsoft maintain two sets of apps for the two operating systems?)?

We’re going to be packing in a lot of information to parse coming out of Build, that’s for sure.  Here’s hoping we leave with more answers than questions.