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Windows 8 Takes a Cue From Apple

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In the halcyon days of January 2008, Apple (AAPL) introduced a new addition to its line of laptops: the MacBook Air. Dubbed "The World's Thinnest Notebook," the Air was deemed sleeker, more portable, and with SSD storage, faster to boot. 

But there was one notable omission: The MacBook Air didn't come standard with an optical drive. Despite the fact that physical media was still prevalent among consumers, albeit on the wane, Apple was confident that many users wouldn't miss it and that the company could help register a death blow to all optical discs -- not to mention boost traffic to the iTunes Store.

And here we are, four years later, Netflix's (NFLX) streaming user base is booming, YouTube (GOOG) commands a ridiculous amount content, leading DVD retailers like Best Buy (BBY) are struggling, and few can remember the last time they held a music CD, let alone bought one. Smartphones and tablets -- devices that rely on SD cards and cloud-based file management -- have become the chief computing device for many, making those iridescent discs look almost as antiquated as a 3.5-inch floppy.

Unsurprisingly, optical media is nearly dead, streaming media is becoming standard, and Apple was among the first to lead the way. And as more companies slowly innovate around the sinking compact disc, Microsoft (MSFT) has made a big step into a world without physical media.

On Redmond's official Building Windows 8 blog, the company announced it will not be shipping Windows 8 with Media Center. The OS will not have standard DVD playback unless the customer buys the Media Center software or uses a third-party media player like VLC.

The blog reads:

On the PC, [YouTube, Hulu, and Netflix] are growing much faster than DVD & broadcast TV consumption, which are in sharp decline (no matter how you measure—unique users, minutes, percentage of sources, etc.). Globally, DVD sales have declined significantly year over year and Blu-ray on PCs is losing momentum as well. Watching broadcast TV on PCs, while incredibly important for some of you, has also declined steadily. These traditional media playback scenarios, optical media and broadcast TV, require a specialized set of decoders (and hardware) that cost a significant amount in royalties. With these decoders built into most Windows 7 editions, the industry has faced those costs broadly, regardless of whether or not a given device includes an optical drive or TV tuner.

So while it's regarded as a cost-cutting matter, Microsoft's move does reflect a grand shift in the way we consume media. The company adds that users may add Media Center via the Windows 8 control panel, and that Windows Media Player will continue to be available, "but without DVD playback support."

It was one thing to see Apple and MacBook Air step away from optical media. But seeing Microsoft execute a similar measure over four years later, well, that must truly mean that DVD is dead.

(See also: Long-Lost Apple Video Has Steve Jobs Hilariously Portraying FDR and AT&T Falsely 'Upgrades' iPhone 4S to 4G)

Twitter: @mcs212

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