Microsoft has released details of Windows 8?s audio/visual playback engines, format support, and feature sets.
Microsoft's Steven Sinofsky said that video playback has changed considerably in the past few years, and Windows 8 is designed to support the shifting models. Windows 8?s video decoding for “common media tasks” will be offloaded to a dedicated hardware subsystem to dramatically lower power consumption and improve battery life.
AMD, Nvidia, and Intel have all shipped integrated GPUs with hardware-assisted video decode for a number of years and it is not clear what Microsoft was using as its test chip. It would appear to be something from the Atom range.
The audio engine in Windows 8 buffers a much higher amount of content when in steady playback mode. This allows the CPU to spend up to 100x more time asleep while handling audio, which should translate into significantly improved battery life.
Microsoft is not supporting native .MKV. The Blog said that developers are free to package codecs for standards like FLAC, MKV, and Ogg alongside the apps that use them. This would make codec installation simultaneous with app installation, rather than requiring a separate download.
Microsoft's DRM for it all is called “PlayReady,” and it’s compatible with both streaming services and content downloading. The blog states that “the Media Foundation extensibility model allows for third parties to integrate their custom content protection systems with built-in hardware-accelerated video decoding.
If a service needs to use a custom streaming format or content protection system, it can integrate its own technology without having to compromise on decoding quality or battery runtime.