Three companies produce the codec necessary for playing DVD’s on Windows XP – CyberLink, InterVideo, and Sonic (CinePlayer). Computer manufacturers and DVD drive manufactures have OEM deals with these companies and bundle their software with new PC’s and new DVD drives. The only people potentially left in the lurch are buyers of used equipment from swap meets and eBay. Those users have to come up with the codecs on their own, or more typically pay for them.
So what would happen if Microsoft released a generic hardware DVD codec? Those three companies would be out of business within a year, and they would be suing Microsoft for billions. Don’t believe me?
[T]he Europeans said they thought Microsoft’s addition of Media Player to the operating system had clearly crossed a line. They ordered a version of Windows to be produced without it. This doesn’t directly affect future products, but some believe it will serve as enough of a precedent that Microsoft will be more careful.
Do you really doubt that some regulator somewhere would not attempt to squeeze money or concessions out of Microsoft if they put those companies out of business by offering those features free? Of course they would.
The makers of Netscape Navigator, Java, NetWare, WordPerfect, Real Networks, AOL, DR-DOS, BeOS, Stacker, and many others have sued or settled with Microsoft added “features” or products like: Internet Explorer, Microsoft JVM, Windows NT, Microsoft Office, Windows Media Player, MSN, MS-DOS, Windows, DoubleSpace.
Microsoft sued by Netscape (With the DOJ doing the suing)
Microsoft sued by Sun
Microsoft sued by Novell
Microsoft sued by Novell (again this time for WordPerfect)
Microsoft sued by RealNetworks
Microsoft sued by AOL Time Warner
Microsoft sued by Caldera (Novell yet again)
Microsoft sued by BeOS
Microsoft sued by Stac
PC’s are not Macs – that’s just a fact of life.
Apple controls the hardware and software that it sells, which explains (along with their tiny market share) why they can add features and squash competition with little regard for legal problems. Did you know their use to be companies that made Mac clones? Apple has systematically put every one of them out of business by denying them access to parts and chips.
For the generations of Microsoft Windows there was a time when you had to buy or license third party software for dial-up networking, web browsing, drive compression, audio and video playback, etc. Those features are in the products now, but invariably Microsoft was sued by the third party vendors whose markets have dried up. They paid them off and we got to keep the free features.
Finally, a significant portion of the fees for licensing DVD codecs goes to the motion picture industry to pad their wallets for their content decoding licensing fees. They fight tooth and nail to keep their cash cow running (witness the DeCSS lawsuits) which is why open source OS’s run afoul of their plans for digital world domination.