One of the more annoying features of Windows 8 and 8.1 has long been the lack of support for Matroska (MKV) files. MKV is one of the most flexible container formats available, but when Microsoft announced the file formats it would support natively with the Metro or Windows Media Player, MKV didn’t make the list. The company is finally rectifying that oversight.
First, a word on what MKV actually is. Like the old AVI (Audio Video Interleave), MKV is a container file format as opposed to an actual encoding standard. Most of the file types that people talk about — MP3, MP4, MKV, AVI — are container formats. The same video stream can be encoded in MP4, MKV, MPEG-2, or AVI. Each of these container formats will impose its own set of rules and limitations on the final output, but they all accomplish the same thing (with varying degrees of quality and capability).
Depending on who you ask, MKV is prized for two reasons. The cynical might say it’s typically favored by pirates, and to be honest, that’s where the format is most popular. Visit popular torrent sites, and MKV files abound.
Linking MKV and piracy, however, is a lot like linking RAR file compression or BitTorrent activity with piracy, or claiming that because programs like TrueCrypt can be abused, they automatically will be abused. At best, this is sloppy thinking. Many companies now use peer-to-peer networking to distribute files to large user bases without crushing their own infrastructure.
There are technical advantages and disadvantages to MKV. On the plus side, it’s one of the most flexible container formats in existence, with support for multiple audio and video streams that some other formats, like MP4, don’t support or only support in restricted fashion. If you have a multimedia library that you’ve built from ripped discs over a period of years, with multiple format shifts over time, MKV is a simple way to preserve or standardize it.
The downside to MKV is that it typically isn’t well supported in mobile players, though there are some exceptions. Most of the players aren’t rated very well, though VLC for iOS does claim MKV capability (it’s not mentioned on the Android version). VLC’s much-ballyhooed launch for Windows 8 occurred earlier this year.
The reason I’m glad to see Windows 8 add this use-case is simple: it means Windows 8.1 now has an edge over Windows 7 when it comes to installing the OS and firing up media content. With Windows 7, I have to plan to install VLC or K-Lite. With Windows 8.1, content should play out of the box, provided that the necessary updates are slipstreamed into the OS install. Right now, this support is limited to Windows 8’s Xbox Video player, but the company apparently intends to make global MKV support happen in Windows 10 from the get-go.
By Edos News