at Engadget HD picked up my post about the lack of
native HD DVD/Blu-ray in Media Center today. I’ve been reading some of the comments the
post is getting and wanted to add a few thoughts.
First, I’m talking about native
support. This means that it works
without launching an external application, just like playing a DVD or any other video within Media Center.
PowerDVD and ArcSoft TotalMedia currently launch external applications
for playback, so you don’t have native support for either HD DVD or Blu-ray at
this point. Media Foundation would be used to do this, much like DirectShow has been used for native DVD playback in Media Center since the start.
Microsoft had planned for native HD DVD support in Windows
Vista, but they dropped that and left it to third parties. It was my guess
that native HD DVD support would finally ship in Fiji, but given the downfall of HD
DVD since you can see why I’d question that.
Even if native HD DVD playback shipped in Fiji, it could very well be
pointless if HD DVD continues its demise.
For native Blu-ray playback within Media Center, a Java
based interactivity layer (called BD-J) would have to be added. Microsoft hates Java with a passion as many
of us know, so it is unlikely that they would spend time developing native
Blu-ray playback when Java is a requirement. I’m not saying it can’t be done from a
technical standpoint. Instead, I’m saying that it is unlikely that
Microsoft will be the one to do it.
There is also additional DRM that would need to be present
in BD+. HD DVD only needs AACS, which
can technically be supported using Protected Media Path (PMP) that is already present
in Vista. Yet another thing Microsoft
would have to add that they didn’t plan for and that they don’t agree with in the first place.
Lastly, I think Microsoft had put a ton of thought into HD
DVD remoting to Extenders. HD DVD uses
HDi (iHD) for interactivity, which Microsoft co-developed with things like
Extenders in mind. With Blu-ray you would need
Java running remotely in an Extender session is much different from HDi which they had already planned for.
When Microsoft decided to support HD DVD, they did so
because of what it offers the consumer as well as their existing technologies. The industry move to Blu-ray changes all of that.
I think we will be more dependent of third parties doing the
work, and even then I’m not sure they could get native Blu-ray within Media
Center because of BD+ and BD-J. PMP doesn’t do BD+, this is key as PMP basically has to be used to provide native playback. There is much more to native playback support then being able to decode certain video codecs, the content protection and interactvity aspects are huge with both of these formats.