This is the biggest thing that annoys me about Microsoft and their claim about delivering the whole home digital eco-system dream to the masses. Codec support it sucks, it's a problem for most of us in one way or another. There is nothing worse than wanting to play your digital content than having the dreaded Codec message appear that says your device or MCX cannot play your video file.
I'm sorry but like it or not the main stream codecs that are out there are here to stay and Microsoft need to open up and support what at the end of the day their users want to play.
There maybe some light at the end of the very dark tunnel in the form of Windows 7. It's far too early to say but initial readings sound positive.
I stumbled across a few articles about Windows 7 from a media playback perspective some of them are quite intriguing.
"Windows Media Player has the most significant changes, with support for new codecs including AAC, H.264, DivX and Xvid, and support for the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) 1.5 media streaming standard, including transcoding where necessary. Under the covers lie more multimedia features, including a new animation framework and DirectX 11."
This is good news, you can get AVI and MP4 movies for example now in to your media library with WMP11 via registry hacks but native support is always desired and preferred.
DNLA is also good news, fancy streaming music directly to your Onkyo amp for example? Now you can in Windows 7.
"H.264 playback is now supported out of the box with Windows 7 -- including on Media Center Extenders – both standalone hardware implementations AND on the XBox 360 when in Extender mode. I know a few people on http://www.thegreenbutton.com who will rejoice"
H.264 in some form was always expected in Media Center due to the fact HD TV really requires it. What is not clear at this stage is what containers we can use such as MKV.
The most intriguing thing I have read about Windows 7 from a media playback perspective is this:
"Multimedia routing. Windows 7 adds features for shuttling media files from PCs on your home network to streaming devices such as the Sonos multi-room music system. Microsoft says the OS will transcode files as necessary to make your entertainment play on gadgets regardless of whether the gadgets support the file format in question. Sounds intriguing; I look forward to trying it out."
Transcoding files as necessary? Could this be the start of the end of the codec compatibility issues we know of today?