Sunday, July 22, 2012

Why does Windows not support Blu-ray playback?

I see many people are still asking on the Internet why doesn't Windows support Blu-ray playback. Some of them not just ask but also directly accuse Microsoft of being stupid or "bad" because of not making their Windows Media Center capable of playing Blu-ray discs. Of course, Microsoft is not a charity organization and they have a good reason to omit BD playback. In fact, it was reported a few months ago that Microsoft did not plan to support also DVD playback in Windows 8 in addition to not supporting Blu-rays.

The reason why Windows 7, XP and Vista do not support playback of Blu-ray discs is quite simple though. And it is very rational. The companies behind the Blu-ray technology (mainly Sony, Panasonic and Philips) require payment of license fees for everything related to the technology. This includes discs, and every piece of hardware or software. Now, let's assume that about 10% of all Windows users will need Blu-ray playback software on their computer. It would be absolutely unnecessary and a misplaced expense if Microsoft pays license fees for the rest of the Windows copies they sell. And having in mind that 10% was probably an overestimation, there is really not a sensible reason for Microsoft to enable BD playback in Windows. Of course, they could do it but then somebody should pay the license fees for this pleasure and naturally, the end users would be the ones to pay. Well, I don't think most of the users want to pay for something they are not going to use. So despite all constant accusations Microsoft get for whatnot, I think they've made a wise decision on this issue.

But Windows is not the only operating system that doesn't offer playback of Blu-ray discs. In fact, all other competitors do not offer it. And if we go further, there is not also any Blu-ray player software that is free. There are a lot of programs that pretend to be capable of playing BDs for free but actually I haven't heard of even one free software that is able to play commercial discs with all features without ripping, hacking or something else. There have been rumors for months that VLC media player is going to support BD playback but in fact, most people report they are not able to play commercial discs although VLC is a good video player otherwise.

And to stress Microsoft's "innocence" furthermore, even the number of commercial Blu-ray software players is limited to four at the moment. It looks like even companies offering commercial software are not very willing to pay license fees to the holders of the patent rights.

It will be interesting to keep an eye on the future development of the technology and any related software or hardware. But unless Sony, Philips and Panasonic do not stop requiring fees I think they are impeding their own invention and its popularity. Thus it is not so strange there are many people that still do not have an idea about the rather superior quality BDs offer compared to DVDs. In any case we cannot blame Microsoft for this.


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