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Microsoft: Add Your Own CableCard, Switched Digital Video, Copy Freely, More

Microsoft at CEDIA Expo 2009: Easy to add digital cable tuners (DCTs) to any Win 7 machine, fixes for switched digital video, and the ability to copy freely for tagged content


CableCard with Win 7: a whole lot easier

Microsoft is making several announcements at CEDIA Expo, but this one's the biggie:

Users will be able to add digital cable tuners (DCT) to off-the-shelf Windows 7 PCs. In the past, OEM PC makers had to jump through hoops to be certified for CableCard.

"Customers [consumers] should be able to do this on their own," says Ben Reed, senior product market manager, Windows Media Center.

Not all Win 7 PCs will necessarily qualify for this feature, but it's darn better than the Vista alternative.

Reed explains:

A new tool will be provided by Microsoft that assesses the PC's ability to support the solution. This tool will analyze the customer's PC and enable digital cable support if the PC meets a set of requirements. Yes, customers should be able to do this on their own.

Remember that demo that Niveus Media did last year -- Eight CableCards and 10 Media Center Extenders? Apparently, the company will be showing a real version of that product.

Reed says that Microsoft has run the new 8x10 Win 7 product through the ringer, testing it "in a way a homeowner could never put through the paces."

Super-reliable.

And this, he says, can be achieved with a "class of machine that isn't extraordinary – just a regular quad core CPU."

Like I wrote before: With Windows 7, Media Center is All About the TV

Switched Digital Video


Switched Digital Video is a handy tool for cable service providers; not so much for consumers.

The technology enables cable operators (MSOs) to better manage bandwidth based on the popularity of shows. The SDV is being turned on by a number of MSOs, unbeknownst to consumers.

When that happens, your Windows Media Center will lose some channels and shows that aren't popular in your neighborhood. But you'll still see the data in your electronic programming guide. Big bummer if you try to watch (or record!) those unavailable channels.

With a cable box, you're essentially sending the cable company a "request" to play one of the unpopular shows, and it will broadcast it to your neighborhood.

But Media Center doesn't offer such a return data channel (RDC) which is why, for example, you can't access your cable service's video on demand.

That's what the "U" stands for in the current DCT design, called OCUR – OpenCable UNIDIRECTIONAL Receiver.

Well, the RDC will be available with Windows 7 and it supports SDV. New firmware is required for existing Win 7 users, and you can keep your existing video card.

The big question: Does this new Reverse Data Channel capability allow users to also get pay-per-view and/or VoD from their cable provider now?

Sadly, no.

Reed says, "The support for SDV is enabled using the updated firmware as well as a tuning adapter. There are no changes to support for PPV/VoD."

The adapter, provided by the cable company, plugs into a Media Center via USB and includes a coax splitter.





Microsoft Windows 7
 
5 Reasons Windows 7 is Good for Installers
Windows 7 will lead to more competition, more integration with A/V components, more automation functionality, more system design options and more revenue.
Windows 7 Launch Party: CE Pros Gone Wild
With all that hootin' and hollerin' over Windows 7, we wonder how these guys can call themselves pros!
10 Useful Add-Ons for Windows 7
Add Hulu to Windows Media Center, tweak hard-to-find settings and more."
Stream HBO Over Internet with FiOS, Windows 7
Windows 7 support for Copy Freely, coupled with Verizon FiOS's generous content protection scheme, enables Windows Media Center to stream premium content over the home network or the Internet.
Hands On: Windows 7 With 'Copy Freely' Support
In the past, you could not share CableCard content -- even non-protected content -- from a Windows Media Center PC; now you can (and skip commercials, too!).
Microsoft: Add Own CableCard, Switched Digital Video, Copy Freely
Microsoft at CEDIA Expo 2009: Easy to add digital cable tuners (DCTs) to any Win 7 machine, fixes for switched digital video, and the ability to copy freely for tagged content.
 


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Article Topics

News · Product News · Digital Rights · Media Center · CEDIA · Digital Media · Media Center · Digital Rights · All topics

About the Author

Julie Jacobson, Co-Founder, EH Publishing / Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson. [More by Julie Jacobson]

5 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by sanfransoxfan04  on  09/09  at  04:56 PM

AVCHD support is Windows 7 has been more important than I originally thought. We have an 11 month son at home, a Canon HD camcorder shooting at 1080p 17mbps AVCHD. I drag these files over USB from the camera to our Windows Home Server, they are easily browseable and playable in Windows 7 Media Center. No need for conversion or digitizing or installing codecs, it just works. My wife I literally sat on the couch for hours watching home movies in HD from the past year. Grandparents should be all over this.

Posted by David  on  09/09  at  11:13 PM

“Win 7 has it: native support for AVCHD, the popular file format for HD camcorders.

Microsoft’s Kevin Collins, who heads the Media Center Integrator Alliance (MCIA), thinks this new feature could be a killer app for dealers.”

LOL, another example of how far removed from reality most of these guys are that work at these huge companies.  That truly don’t have the SLIGHTEST clue.

Posted by David  on  09/09  at  11:18 PM

sanfransoxfan04 said “grandparents will be all over this”

Oh, I am sure the grandparents will be all over native support in Media Center for HD camcordoers…just like my 90 year old Aunts and Uncles are all over Twitter and downloading BitTorrents…NOT.

Posted by sanfransoxfan04  on  09/10  at  10:21 AM

My parents are far from 90 and LOVE having HD videos of their grandson on their Media Center, but it’s always been a pain to convert the files for them, now I won’t need to. When we visit I will simply connect the camcorder via USB and drop them on their server, I bet I can even set up sync within Media Center since it works with USB volumes.

This may not be your killer app, but its something that we were constantly asked for by customers and dealers when I was at Kaleidescape. People wanted their home movies on the system, and in HD. I even spent a lot of time developing and documenting the internal process of ingesting HD home movies at Kscape because it was such a popular request, sadly this is still not possible on a Kaleidescape System.

I’ve spoken with hundreds of dealers, many who have EASILY closed a sale of a high end media server by loading the customer’s personal photos and home videos as a demonstration. I guess wealthy people appreciate their family and nostalgia. I don’t think Kevin’s comments are that far off.

When a Media Center server can already handle DVD, Blu-ray, High Definition Cable and soon Sat TV, Music, Photos, Videos, Streaming Content and integrate with advanced control systems, what other Killer App do you propose David?

Posted by David  on  09/10  at  02:18 PM

sanfransoxfan04,

I am not saying it is not a nice feature.  First watch this video - this represents the *reality* of your average consumer.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4MwTvtyrUQ

Media Center has ridiculously low market penetration (tell me otherwise all you want) and that’s even with it being “free” and being shipped with millions of versions of Windows.  99% of its users are geeks.  NOT a criticism.  My point in linking to that video is that anyone that thinks being able to transfer HD videos off of a camcorder is a “game changer” is out of touch with real consumers.

So what is my killer ap?  The problem is you can’t have a killer ap until you have a real product.  When MCE can do these things then they can start to talk about having a killer ap.

1. When your average consumer can plug it in and start using it.
2. Load a DVD and have it rip and store automatically without requiring some special illegal software (not Microsoft’s fault I know).
3. Instant access to downloads (I believe they are now on top of this one).
4. Support for DirecTV and Dish so a consumer does not have to give up their favorite provider.
5. DRM standard that works and doesn’t screw the consumer.
That’s just the start.  Right now MCE and all media centers are niche products.  Vudu is probably the closest to selling a product that at least has the basics of being a successful consumer product but they do not have the other things to make it happen.

In closing, I see the ability to transfer HD movies to the MCE as a very nice feature, but not even close to being a killer ap.

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