Digital videos span a myriad of formats, all of which offer differing properties from one another. At a time when large, high-definition video is downloaded and streamed at will thanks to fast connection speeds, MKV is now ubiquitous, and whilst the likes of VLC have long since supported pretty much every format under the sun, Microsoft has now added MKV playback natively to the Windows 8.1 Video app.

The company’s Xbox software will be strengthening its ties with the wider Windows platform through Windows 10, but this amalgamation of the two flagship operating systems has been in progress for years now. It was only a few months ago that Xbox One began supporting MKV files, and as of today, Windows 8.1 will be doing likewise.

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It’s no secret that, in torrent circles, MKV is the de facto weapon of choice for those sharing and downloading 720p-and-up video files, but in spite of its rather sketchy reputation, Microsoft wants to ensure that its ecosystem is able to complete tasks natively rather than requiring third-party intervention.

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Streaming media sites like Netflix don’t touch MKV, and while legit movie and TV show download services like iTunes allow a user to view content on a variety of devices, Apple et al are unlikely to begin encoding in this ubiquitous format any time soon.

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Does this mean that native MKV compliance in Windows 8.1 is a win for pirates? In some aspects, yes, but Microsoft’s decision to allow MKV playback doesn’t really hurt, since aforementioned media players like VLC have always been on offer for Windows users anyway. If anything, it merely adds to the recovering reputation of Windows after the generally negative reviews of Windows 8, and while those named third-party media players will continue to thrive, those regularly using the MKV standard will now be able to view some of their content at stock level.

With FLAC support also incoming with Windows 10, audiophiles will also have a field day, and having personally utilized this lossless format when ripping CDs in the past, I, for one, am grateful to see the software maker broadening its horizons.

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The newly-updated Video app, featuring MKV support, is now available to download for free at the Windows Store, and you can grab it right now via the direct link provided below.

(Download: Video for Windows on the Windows Store)

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