Microsoft CEDIA News – CableCard to be available to everyone

Tonight at the CEDIA show Microsoft held a press function announcing several very important announcements for Windows Media Center and cablecard usage. For those unaware, Cable card is the method by which you are able to receive high definition programming directly into your Media Center PC without any set top box or other device besides the Cable Card (OCUR) tuner itself. Here’s the highlights from their announcements:

  • Switched Digital Video to be supported via the Tuning Adapter
  • No More OEM BIOS Restrictions
  • Appropriate DRM Flagging for content

These are some huge announcements and will all be included in the upcoming firmware for the tuners which should be launched in conjunction with Windows 7 on October 22nd–and yes, you will need Windows 7 for all of this goodness.

While many people might see this and believe the most significant news here is the lack of BIOS restriction, I think it’s going to be the relaxed DRM restrictions. Up until this announcement, anyone who was "lucky" enough to own a cable card system was under a LOT of restrictions since Windows copy-protected every show, whether the station provider flagged it or not. What that meant was that you could only view that show on that single system–no copying to laptop for travel, no compressing, no commercial removal! It’s such a restrictive process and was more ridiculous when you factor in that a lot of content available is not flagged as copy-protected. It’s unknown exactly to what extent the amount of shows without the restriction are, but it’s better than before which had none.

I do think that the BIOS restriction removal will be significant as well, but given the hacks around online it was not really a hinderence anymore. Any HTPC geeks who really wanted cablecard could do so easily. It’s still unknown how the distribution plan for the ATI OCUR tuners will change, but I would anticipate seeing these available in Newegg and similar OEMs very shortly. 

In the end I think this is fantastic news for both Media Center users and in general, as it can only help to increase the popularity of cable card users and hopefully encourage ATI to continue innovating their tuner for future developments. Once Dell and the other major OEMs left the cable card market it really suffered. Hopefully this announcement will breathe some life into it. I’ve been a cable card user for quite some time now and it’s about time for some great news like this!

Click Read More to read the full Press Release from Microsoft.

Enhances the Digital Cable Experience
and Names 2009 Windows Media Center Ultimate Install Winner

get new capabilities, more options, and a better digital cable experience
in Windows Media Center.

— Sept. 9, 2009
Today at CEDIA EXPO 2009, Microsoft
Corp. discussed key Windows Media Center features for Windows 7 and
announced a series of initiatives that enhance the digital cable experience
in Windows Media Center. With the addition of native support for additional
international broadcast TV standards, including QAM and ATSC, there
will now be support for switched digital video (SDV), a new tool that
will make it possible for end customers to add a digital cable tuner
with CableCARD to their PC, and for existing digital cable tuner with
CableCARD customers to enjoy more portability for digital cable TV that
is marked as “copy freely” (CF). In addition, Microsoft and the
Media Center Integrator Alliance (MCIA) announced the winner of the
2009 Windows Media Center Ultimate Install Contest, showcasing the many
ways Windows Media Center can be used in a whole-home solution.

continuing to work on creating opportunities for partners that will
enable great entertainment experiences on the PC,” said Craig Eisler,
corporate vice president of entertainment client software for the TV,
Video & Music Business at Microsoft. “Consumers understand that
having access to content via the PC is critical when it comes to entertainment
experiences, and with these announcements, we’re underscoring our
broader commitment to deliver a rich experience with Windows Media Center.”

Switched Digital Video
(SDV) Support Added for Windows Media Center

response to customer requests and cable providers’ deployment of SDV,
Microsoft now supports SDV in Windows Media Center for Windows 7. In
conjunction with a device known as a tuning adapter, supplied by a customer’s
cable provider, Windows Media Center and a digital cable tuner with
CableCARD will be able to tune to SDV channels. Customers can enjoy
SDV broadcasts on PCs running Windows Media Center in Windows 7 and
a digital cable tuner with CableCARD.

End Customers
Can Now Add Digital Cable Tuners With
CableCARD to Their PCs

and CableLabs announced that customers will now be able to add digital
cable tuners with CableCARD to a Windows 7-based PC with Windows Media
Center. 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 requirements, opening
digital cable options to Windows Media Center customers across the country.
Microsoft also announced that, with Windows 7, it has increased the
number of TV tuners that can be connected to the PC from two to four
per tuner type, thereby allowing customers to simultaneously record
or watch as many as four digital cable TV channels.

are excited that digital cable customers will now be able to take advantage
of this new opportunity to bring great cable TV programming to the PC,”
said So Vang, vice president of OpenCable at CableLabs. “We are dedicated
to helping customers get the most from their cable service, and this
will be a great win for both the customer and the cable operators.”

Digital Cable
Customers Can Now Enjoy More TV Portability in Windows Media Center

and CableLabs also announced that they worked together to enable digital
cable tuner with CableCARD customers to enjoy more portability for digital
cable TV that is marked as “copy freely” (CF). Customers will be
able to play CF-marked digital cable recordings, such as those from
local channels, on other PCs, devices and portable media.

Windows Media Center
Features in Windows 7 Highlighted

new Windows 7 features such as Windows Touch, HomeGroup, Remote Media
Streaming and PlayTo, sharing recorded TV, videos, music and pictures
throughout the home, while on the road and to remote locations has never
been easier. There is also support for the AVCHD format. This allows
customers to view HD video from many popular HD video cameras.

addition, support for the international broadcast TV standards that
was released with the Windows Media Center TV Pack 2008 will also be
included in Windows Media Center in Windows 7. This includes native
support for both ATSC and QAM, the ability to remap channels, and support
for subchannels.

New Firmware for ATI TV
Wonder Digital Cable Tuners

conjunction with the Microsoft and CableLabs announcements, Advanced
Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) will be providing a new firmware update that
is available to all ATI TV Wonder digital cable tuners being used with
Windows 7 and Windows Vista. This firmware update will allow existing
digital cable tuner with CableCARD customers to enjoy more portability
for digital cable TV marked as CF. Customers will be able to play CF-marked
digital cable recordings, such as those from local channels, on other
PCs, devices, and portable media. In addition, the firmware will contain
support for SDV. When installed on a Windows 7-based PC with a digital
cable tuner with CableCARD and a tuning adapter from a cable provider,
it enables access to switched digital channels in locations where SDV
has been deployed.

Windows Media Center Ultimate Install Contest Winner Announced

in collaboration with the Media Center Integrator Alliance (MCIA), announced
the winner of the 2009 Windows Media Center Ultimate Install Contest.
The winning installation was submitted by Dustin Anderson, general manager
at Vision Audio in Lubbock, Texas, who built a system with Windows Media
Center at the core of the entertainment experience in an extensive whole-home
installation for a customer in Odessa, Texas. The installation integrates
six Windows Media Center-based servers, one Windows Home Server, five
dedicated theater-style rooms, 12 media racks, 98 speakers, and 30 zones
of distributed audio. The home includes products from key MCIA member
companies such as Autonomic Controls Inc., Crestron Electronics Inc.
and Niveus Media Inc.

Windows Media Center Ultimate Install Contest, now in its third year,
encourages integrators to show off their talents by presenting their
most unique and creative installations that leverage Windows Media Center
technologies. Vision Audio’s integration of the family’s music,
movies, videos and pictures, as well as the integration of Windows Media
Center and Windows Home Server with the Crestron home automation system,
and the large scope of the installation set it apart as the winner for

thrilled to receive this recognition from Microsoft and the MCIA. The
Windows Media Center platform has enabled us to be on the cutting edge
of technology, which has provided us with critical business advantages
during the economic downturn,” Anderson said.

information on the contest and images from the install can be found
online at

Also on Display at CEDIA
EXPO 2009

the Microsoft booth at CEDIA EXPO 2009, Microsoft will show additional
hardware and software installations that enhance the digital cable experience.
Demonstrations include these:

    • The new Zune HD
      portable media player using the Zune HD AV dock to display 720p content
      on an HDTV. The Zune HD and updated Zune PC software will launch on
      Sept. 15.
    • A home server powered
      by Windows Home Server software. The upcoming Windows Home Server Power
      Pack 3, currently in beta testing, will add enhancements for Windows
      Media Center. Power Pack 3 features include the option to move recorded
      TV content to the home server in a variety of resolutions, and the ability
      for users to see statistics about the home server through Windows Media
    • A technology preview
      of the new Multi-Channel Cable TV Card from Ceton Corp., which enables
      PCs with Windows Media Center to play or record multiple live channels
      of premium HDTV at once, and stream live HD channels or recordings to
      multiple TV sets throughout the home, all with a single CableCARD.

About CableLabs

in 1988 by members of the cable television industry, Cable Television
Laboratories 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 advancements into
their business objectives. Cable operators from around the world are
members. CableLabs maintains web sites at;;;;; and

About the Media Center Integrator
Alliance (MCIA)

MCIA is an open and independent non-profit consortium formed to advance
and administer the support, promotion, and enrichment of the media center
ecosystem. Charter members of MCIA include AMD, Crestron, HP, Intel,
Life|ware, Microsoft Corp., and Niveus Media.

About Microsoft

in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software,
services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their
full potential.

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