No, I'm not making this up. Come the day you buy a Windows 8 PC, or if you're brave enough to install it yourself on an older PC, you'll find that Windows 8 can't play DVDs. You can also forget about TV tuner support and DVD Video Object (VOB) file playback. They're gone too.
Microsoft did this because it didn't want to pay for the video codecs you need to watch DVDs. For a time, Microsoft will let you “upgrade” to what was once a standard feature for free, but as you know Microsoft is still being coy about Windows' final pricing and it doesn't appear that it will be bundled by default into new Windows 8 PC.
So, what do you do? Well you can pay for Windows 8 Media Center. If you somehow end up stuck with Basic Windows 8, you'll have to buy "Windows 8 Pro Pack.” This will convert Windows Basic into Windows 8 Pro with Media Center. Windows 8 Pro users won't get a free ride either. They'll have to purchase the "Windows 8 Media Center Pack.” We don't know yet how much the "Pack" will cost. I'm guessing it will be for a minimal price, say $10.
I should also point out that even with the Media Center you will not be able to watch DVDs in Windows Media Player. According to the Microsoft FAQ, “We cannot enable DVD playback all the time in Windows Media Player. Given the ongoing feedback to avoid feature overlap and to avoid the complexity of behavior changing for a previously installed component, we only enable DVD playback in Media Center once it is installed.“
Whatever. It still annoying to me.
So, what I think you should do instead is just download a copy of the free, open-source program VLC. This popular little player can play most video containers and codecs, including DVDs, with no fuss or muss on pretty much any desktop operating system you've got in your house. You can also use it as a video streaming server, but there I can't recommend it unless you're very comfortable with tinkering with your home entertainment gear.
What VLC does give you though is the ability to play DVDs with no trouble on your Windows 8 PC. At this time, there is no “Metro” version of Windows 8 so you'll need to watch your DVDs from the Windows 8 Desktop interface. If you're like me, avoiding Metro will be no hardship.
VideoLAN, the company behind VLC isn't averse to building a Metro edition of VLC, but they'll need help to make it happen. So far, that help hasn't materialized.
In the meantime, VLC will work on Windows 8 Desktop. You should, however, be aware that at the moment, VLC's interface on Windows 8 is... ugly. The full interface will be enabled for Windows 8 with the forthcoming 2.03 version. This should be out shortly. And, then you can do what you can already do on Windows 7: Watch your DVDs on your computer for no extra cost.