Say It Ain’t So Joe… Why HDTV Support in MCE Won’t Change Until Longhorn Arrives

Why HDTV Support in MCE Won’t Change Until Longhorn Arrives Life is a series of disappointments, followed by death. Chris Lanier is out with the first post to begin letting us all down gently on the cable HDTV support that we most likely will not see with the Microsoft Media Center 2005 Update due out later this year.

It really kind of bums me out. Not so good of a day.

Chris diagnoses the problem like this:

“Part of the reason Media Center doesn’t support anything more than OTA is mainly because of the rights management issues. Sure, the hardware support isn’t currently shipped, but I don’t see that as the big holdup. Media Center is not the “closed box” that Hollywood wants it to be. The only reason we can purchase a TiVo or other CE device that will record premium content is because it appears to the industry as a “closed box”. It’s too easy for them to say that Media Center is highly contributing to piracy of TV and films on the Internet because of the PC’s open architecture. Microsoft must make changes to Media Center, and the underlying Operating System that is Windows XP, to be a “closed box” when it comes to recording and viewing digital content.”

Chris is right about the open box approach to Media Center. One of the great things with MCE is that, for instance, I can easily copy recorded television to my laptop over my network for remote viewing. No hassle, no problem, simple as pie.

I was pretty specific when I had dinner with Jim Allchin earlier this year and asked him when we’d see premium HDTV content available in Media Center and his response was probably later this year. If Chris is right, and I suspect that he is (he usually is), cable or satellite supported HDTV most likely will not become a reality for MCE until Longhorn arrives in late 2006. Perhaps Allchin misunderstood my question over dinner or perhaps since the dinner Microsoft has changed course.

The issues surrounding cable supported HDTV in MCE are real and are significant. There is no way in hell that Time Warner wants high def copies of the Sopranos floating around the BitTorrent network. It would seriously cut into their DVD sales. Until Microsoft can with absolute certainty assure Hollywood that their DRM is foolproof enough to lock down these recordings on a Media Center machine we just won’t see it. I’m afraid that with regards to cable HDTV support for late 2005 Microsoft most likely caved on this one.

It’s a shame really because with the XBox 360s coming out this Fall and hot damn the way Microsoft has been pushing the whole HDTV thing, the timing would have been perfect. Now, if Chris is correct, it really dampens the whole XBox 360 launch for me personally. OTA HDTV is quite simply not the answer. And while I’d hoped for the perfect storm of cable or satellite HDTV combined with the XBox 360 release it is quite possible that we won’t see the real magic until late 2006. I just hope that by then it is not too late — with a standalone HDTV TiVo due out in late 2005 / early 2006 and all.

Microsoft really may be missing the boat on this one. Perhaps they really don’t want to own the living room after all.

And then again, maybe Chris is wrong — but we all know he rarely is.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    This is subject near and dear to my heart. I feel that MS is missing the boat. But it is most likely do to the laws and that everyone and thier brother wants a shot at MS. DRM is great in a way, but control the media in the home it has to be the whole package. By this I mean if I have a MCE I should be able to play all of it’s content anywhere on my network. Meaning music, tv, dvd etc.. And from the sounds of it this isn’t going to happen. The funny thing is others are doing it. Especially when it comes to DVD. And the whole closed box thing. Well that’s only for the general public. Power users can and do hack the systems. Just like with the MCE, the average user just uses the system. The power user makes or uses readily available 3 party apps to view all media over the network. It’s a PC and that’s the problem. The only solution is for the media companies to get onboard and figure out how to use this to thier advantage. They have become lazy from the profits just rolling in, and now need to spend more money to make money. So they sue anyone they can. If I had the space I could write a good article on this, siting many instances.

  2. The problem is that there is no way they are going to come up with a foolproof DRM. How long has it taken for every other DRM scheme to be cracked? A week? A month maybe?

  3. Anonymous says:

    I think Chris is right on the money with his speculation, that Microsoft will wait for Longhorn before they release digital cable support for MCE. I’d be surprised if MS could get the Cable Labs certification they need to support digital cable cards without the clout of Longhorn’s new DRM features (whether they’re fully supported in hardware or not).

  4. Alex Rowland says:

    I guess we’ll all just have to keep downloading those HD shows from Bittorrent until the MPAA, MS and the rest of the crew get their act together.

  5. Anonymous says:

    This just makes the work that Timmoore is doing regarding delivery of HD content over firewire into MCE that much more important. He’s already got it recording HD over firewire and channel changing happening over firewire for Motorola boxes. If you know your way around MCE developing, head over the the 3rd Party Applications forum on TheGreenButton and check out the thread titled Channel changing STBs using firewire for more details and see if you can offer some insight!

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