Hot Donkey! Premium CableCARD HDTV in Microsoft’s Media Center Coming in 2006

Hot Donkey. Per the press release below, it’s official: expect to see CableCARD HDTV Support in Vista due out before Christmas next year. As those of you who read my blog know, lack of premium HDTV has been in my mind the single biggest flaw for the Media Center product. Although there were rumors that this was on the way it is nice to see it announced officially.

What is needed next is for the OEMs to announce an easy and low cost upgrade path for the new CableCARD tuners due out next year.

For all of you who are Media Center entusiasts and HDTV addicts this is fantastic news.

Press release as follows:

REDMOND, Wash. and LOUISVILLE, Colo., Nov. 16 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Microsoft Corp. and Cable Television Laboratories Inc. (CableLabs(R)) today announced they have reached an agreement that will allow Microsoft and PC manufacturers to bring to market digital-cable-ready Windows(R) Media Center-based PCs in the holiday 2006 time frame.

These Media Center PCs, capable of supporting a CableCARD(TM) module, will allow consumers to enjoy one-way cable programming, including premium high-definition cable content, on their personal computer and throughout the home on compliant network-connected devices, such as Xbox 360(TM), while protecting cable operators’ investments in high-value content in a digital environment. Microsoft is working closely with CableLabs to document final approval of Windows Media(R) Digital Rights Management (DRM) as a content protection technology for OpenCable(TM) products that receive one-way cable content under the terms of this agreement.

“This agreement is an important milestone for our customers who want access to high-definition digital cable content on their PCs and a major step toward enabling a solution for the delivery of that content,” said Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of the Windows eHome Division at Microsoft.

“The cable industry is very interested in having the PC serve as another means to allow consumers to enjoy cable programming,” said Richard R. Green, president and CEO of CableLabs. “By working with Microsoft and the IT industry, we have come up with a solution to enable consumers to enjoy the wide range of entertainment options they want.”

“This agreement carefully balances the need to preserve the flexibility of the personal computer for consumers with the need for cable operators to be confident that the hardware and software shipped with compliant Media Center PCs will function like a CableCARD-enabled digital television,” said Glenn Britt, chairman of CableLabs and chairman and CEO of Time Warner Cable.

The agreement is the culmination of more than two years of extensive evaluation and technical reviews performed by the two entities under the CableLabs OpenCable process to develop specifications and test suites for the new solution.

The specified OpenCable architecture allows for multiple DRM systems to be used in the device and ensures content providers of protected delivery of content to the PC. Microsoft(R) Windows Media Digital Rights Management is the first major DRM system to complete the due diligence necessary for approval by CableLabs.

The OpenCable project will continue to play an important role as the new agreement moves forward, allowing the cable industry to work closely with the consumer electronics and IT industries to innovate rapidly on the new specifications developed by Microsoft and CableLabs.

CableLabs will host interoperability events to enable vendors working on products based on these specifications to test products in CableLabs facilities and conduct more formalized certification testing. More information about the OpenCable project is available at .

Media Center PCs deliver advanced computing and easy-to-use integrated digital entertainment experiences. To date, Microsoft has sold more than 4 million Windows XP Media Center Edition licenses, and more than 130 PC manufacturers are offering Media Center PCs around the world. The cable industry supports more than 370 models of digital televisions manufactured by 22 companies that display one-way cable content via CableCARDs.

About CableLabs

Founded in 1988 by members of the cable television industry, Cable Television Laboratories Inc. (CableLabs) is a non-profit research and development consortium that is dedicated to pursuing new cable telecommunications technologies and to helping its cable operator members integrate those technical advancements into their business objectives.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

17 Replies to “Hot Donkey! Premium CableCARD HDTV in Microsoft’s Media Center Coming in 2006”

  1. So if we already have custom built media center pcs. Will this mean all we have to do is buy a pcmcia adapter card. Put that adapter in a empty PCI slot, then put the card in. Finally update Media Center, and presto we have cable delievered HD broadcasts and digital channels?

  2. Kuruption – I may be a bit jaded, but I can assure you that nothing is that easy. That being said, let’s enjoy for one day the possibility that it might 😉


    ok, I can’t do it —

    You need a specific version of Vista (unreleased so we don’t know what the requirements are and unknown upgrade path for MCE or anything else for that matter)

    One way cable card support only (I assume this means VOD doesn’t work, right? Please correct me if I am wrong)

    Unknown restrictions on content under a new multi-tiered DRM scheme

    Any one of a million details that we don’t know about today that will be a gotcha for tomorrow.

    That being said, its better than what we have today for MCE which is NOTHING for anything other than OTA.

  3. First I’ve heard of this CableCARD thing… anyone know why the heck it’s unidirectional only? All those wifty features like video-on-demand and pay-per-view, gone.

    Been waiting a long long time for someone to make a decent HD PVR that can run on a computer. I guess I’ll keep waiting.

  4. More feet dragging…

    Cable companies have been dragging their feet on CableCARD for a long time and were finally FORCED to push it out the door..

    Now, it’ll be at least ANOTHER YEAR before they start making PVRs that support CableCARDs..

    By that time, I may just be too disgusted to be willing to pay ungodly sums of cash for crappy shows.

  5. Thomas, are you getting ready for Q4 2006 to bring many of the features to Media Center and Windows that you have been wanting for a long time? Hope so. =)

  6. FYI, there are CableCARD HDTVs on the market today from most major TV vendors. You can use VOD with this version of cablecard – but you cannot order via the PC (or TV-enabled with CableCARD), you’d have to call (since there is no back channel to send the request to the cable plant. Plus you will not be able to leverage your cable op’s interactive program guide with one-way. Two way CableCARD is probably 2 years out – not one.

  7. Wonderful. I think.

    The greedy cable companies finally agree to something with cablecard on PCs, but not without restrictions.

    The resultant video files will be proprietary windows media files, and you can bet your ass the cable companies won’t let you do ANYTHING with them, including burn them to DVD. Also, you can be sure it’ll force deletions on you, and won’t let you record certain premium content.

    So unless they find a way to circumvent the DRM crap, I don’t see how the resultant system will be any less Nazi than the current closed DVR boxes.

    It’s a start, though.

  8. Yay! The complete and total destruction of the VCR is one step closer. The broadcast flag may have been defeated by the Supremes, but that decision is negated by the cablecard specs and the digital restrictions management built into this solution.

    So don’t be upset when you can’t record an NFL show due to local blackout restrictions, can’t transfer a Major League baseball game from your house to your relative’s or friend’s house network to watch with a group of friends or relatives, or when you can’t save one of those games or a favorite movie for more than a week or two without it expiring. If you didn’t know about all these restrictions, read the cablecard specs, search the MythTV archives keyword: cablecard, and do a little homework on digital restrictions management.

    All that happened is televisions, cable, satellite, dvd and other media just died a little more today. Nothing really to cheer about. Unless you are Microsoft or a suit in the entertainment cartel.

    Revision: Sony wins Betamax decision long-term.

  9. Does anyone know if Verizon’s FiOS service is any different and supports bi-directional communications between the cable plant and a PC or CableCARD-compliant device?

  10. There is no way that anything other than Microsoft software will be able to utilize this card. The Cable Card will only be available for devices which keep the decrypted video completely locked away. There is a certification process required. Once the video is decrypted, it is re-encrypted with a key negotiated with the hosting device before leaving the Cable Card — you aren’t supposed to be able to get at unencrypted video anywhere in the system.

    To answer another question farther up, the CableCard only uses the PCMCIA form factor. It is incompatible with PCMCIA slots.

    And it would be surprising if Verizon adopted such a legacy system for their video over FIOS offering. Their system will probably be based on IP instead, offering two-way communication from the start. The Cable Card is specifically designed for the existing cable company conditional access schemes.

  11. Well, 1-way Cable ards are all we get for now. Version 2, due out the end of this year, will have 2 way support and be able to support VOD and IPPV. The current cable card devices will NOT be compatable with the Version 2 Cablecards, so hold off on any major purchase if you are only looking to get a Cable card device.

    The current Version 1 Cable cards only function is to DE-crypt the video streams. It only holds the decryption keys sent by the cable providers system. It does NOT do any recoding/encrypting. The MediaCenter adapters may do this, but it is not a function of the Cable card. The Version 1 Cable card also does not come with any incorporated guide or TV programmng information either, so it is very limited in that it can really do.

  12. The comments about why the cable card are not two-way stems back to it’s intent. It was only to allow access to cable content. I don’t know of any TV made today that transmits signal back into a cable system to make it two way. How would you control what is sent into the cable system? Any unwanted signals could mess up other chanels. I would expect before two way TV sets are sold, they must first be tested so as not to interfere with other cable signals. This is the type process that cable modems went through. They were tested and then certified to operate with the local cable company, then they were sold to consumers. Using a settop box allows the cable companies to test and get to consumers quickly.

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