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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
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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.


  About the Author

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. Email Julie at [email protected]

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