Windows 8 and DVD Codecs.

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So with Windows 8 still on its way, the news that the operating system will not come with the Windows Media Player as standard has created small ripples of discontent.

It isn’t that the codecs themselves are the issue – more that these codecs are being traded around and need to be licensed, and when you’re Microsoft and you plan to ship millions of these operating systems as the default software on new computers, those costs could themselves be millions of dollars.

Instead, Microsoft claim that it isn’t important to offer it as standard anymore. Their numbers suggest only six percent of Windows users use the standard media player. Now, six percent is still not bad for an OS selling in chunks of millions, but it’s worth noting that the standard media player is… well. It isn’t good.

Most of us use third-party software on our computers – iTunes comes with its own media player, and as it has a huge market share is undoubtedly one of the biggest out there to use. You have the likes of Winamp and VLC which themselves have been around for a while and come with a raft of features and options, and PowerDVD is often pre-bundled with computers for DVD playback. The Windows Media Player, for all intents and purposes, is overlooked mostly for more full-featured options out there.

So, will the decision to cut it and offer it as an optional paid extra work out? That is to be seen. Microsoft will then need to really enhance what WMP can do and how it operates if it hopes to survive in the market. What sets it apart from the competition right now is that it is a free piece of software that comes with Windows as standard – and as a freebie, it doesn’t really need to do much to justify its worth. Take it out and force it to stand on its own two feet, it will be set aside market alternatives and that, in its current form, cannot end well.

Of course, the industries would like us to believe that it is anti-competitive to pre-bundle Media Player and Internet Explorer with Windows. It may be true, except for the realities that fewer people are using Media Player and Internet Explorer, for all the pomp and ceremony, is still widely underused. People prefer Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox or even Opera as these are generally kept up to date more, and security holes repaired in a more timely fashion.

An appropriate analogy would be moving into a new house; only to find that there are no heaters and no boiler because it’s anti-competitive; it’s nicer to let you decide what heaters you want and what boiler you’d like. No bulbs either – with dozens of brands out there, you need to decide who you’d prefer.

Truth is, we EXPECT a certain degree of content for our initial purchase. Sure there may be more popular or even better alternatives, but for the first few days and weeks, it is nice to not have to worry about rushing to get new things – same for homes, I don’t move into a new flat and think; “Right, first things first let’s gut the kitchen”. There are more important things to worry about at the start than that – the same for Windows and a new PC, there are just more important things to set about doing than jumping online and spending the first few days replacing all the default media players and displays.

Anti-competitive is all too often wheeled out as a cheap term to kick Microsoft. They do a pretty decent job – well, so far Windows 8 looks to be a glorified X-Box Live and I’m not yet convinced but who knows, maybe it will come good. Microsoft may have the market cornered on the OS but in pretty much every other regard, it’s very much at the back of the pack.

You won’t hear Google or Apple or anyone else telling you that because it’s easier to paint Microsoft as a big ugly boogeyman. Microsoft may not be perfect, but we know most of their default software is painfully average at best. You may not choose to use it, but most of us are actually glad it is there for the brief period we do need to use it.

Hopefully people will just keep doing what they already do and do it better. Because the internet is constantly changing, constantly evolving – it never sleeps, it never rests. We’re spoiled for choice on whatever we want or need. Which is usually one of the best reasons to have a default option at the start – because there is always something to fall back on should something not work, or not be very good.

Not that people want to tell you that, because it’s just not very Capitalist. Perhaps it isn’t. But seeing the state of the world today as shaped by capitalism, you have to wonder if people have perhaps gotten the wrong end of the stick – success used to be simply providing a better option and knowing people were loyal customers. Now it’s just basically defined by complaints, court tussles and men in suits from corporate legal teams.

No wonder the UK economy is in such a state… we have more politicians, accountants and lawyers than people actually making stuff. Economically speaking, moving money around isn’t good for the economy – it’s making new money, opening new markets. That’s good for the economy.

No-one likes to point this out though because, well, their jobs depend on keeping up the facade. Much like the fact only 6% of people use Windows Media Player… something tells me that when it comes to the competition, most of the people whinging about Microsoft don’t really have much cause to complain at all.

That is, until Microsoft launch a decent premium version of Windows Media Player that competes with them directly. And by that point, they’ll have over-egged the case and most of us simply won’t give a flying f…

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