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  CableCard Expected To Boost Vista Media Center Platform
Time: 00:26 EST/05:26 GMT | News Source: CRN | Posted By: Kenneth van Surksum

he first CableCard-ready Windows Vista Media Center PCs have begun trickling into the market, but it will be some time before broad licensing is available to system builders.

CableCard enables consumers to view and record high-definition premium content such as HBO and ESPN on their TVs and PCs without a set-top box or personal video recorder.

Following an accord signed by Microsoft and Cable Television Labs in November 2005, a handful of specialized OEMs, including Niveus Media, ZT Systems, Velocity Micro and S1Digital, have been authorized to build and sell next-generation CableCard-ready Media Center PCs based on Vista Home Premium and Vista Ultimate.

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#1 By 1896 ( at 6/11/2007 5:17:17 PM
Will people ever learn? MediaCenter start to become popular after MS made it available to through retail channels.
There is also something else to be mentioned: Cable companies are very strong, and IMO an oligopoly, here in the US but in Europe the situation is very different: Besides Sky which is satellite based, the biggest phone companies are beginning to offer TV via Internet; of course they have the advantage that all major cities already have fiber optic networks available.
to give you an idea my brother in Rome, Italy pay Euro 40/month for phone service with long distance calls made to people using the same provider for free and 25MB Internet connection.
We are way behind here... and I am not going to make comparison with the far East.

This post was edited by Fritzly on Monday, June 11, 2007 at 17:18.

#2 By 23275 ( at 6/11/2007 6:07:42 PM
#1, Yep - in the EU/Asia they average 40 to 70 Mbp/sec - here in the states, we're luck to get 2 Mbp/sec avg. The infrastructure is here... but so is the lock on distribution that both incumbent carriers [the new AT&T, as an example] and cable and sat companies have on content distribution. One perspective is to kill VOIP and Unifoed Communications in its crib and the other is to prevent IPTV from taking hold.

It will be years before we see smaller OEM's have access to supported HDCP Compliant cards, without paying through the nose for certification - and even when we do, there is no independence from CC 2.0 support requiring the presence and cooperation of a carrier supplied installer.

Again, we can thank people that steal and post digital content illegallly, for this posture. All of this is only hurting people who already pay for premium content - in hard and soft forms and it is dang sad. One can of course, pay out the backside for DVR/PVR's that the cable/sat companies sell/lease - and continue to put up with limited storage space and other BS - like how they "Detect errors on your DVR drive and wipe out all your recorded content..." ****Hige NOTE: The drive is fine and so is the data - be sure to apply the "PROTECT" token to any recorded content and when the sat company does its wipe of the drive, they protected recordings will still be there.*****

#3 By 8556 ( at 6/11/2007 10:47:17 PM
Cable cards, in a PC? My customers generally are surprised to learn they can add a standard TV tuner with remote control and FM for $40 and HDTV for somewhat more $.

#4 By 23275 ( at 6/12/2007 9:27:29 AM
#3, It's a tough space, but the builder/integrator can provide good products and differentiation. Let's say one combines a Windows Vista Ultimate WMC system and a 622 model dish HDTV receiver/DVR-PVR. Now the big limitation one runs into with most set top boxes supplied by carriers is the limited storage space - they could provide a lot more, but I suspect that the sizes are intentionally kept small - to enourage more live TV viewing and less recording [content creators and networks really need people to watch live TV]. One can also add any number of Logitech Harmony remotes to the above mix, or higher end Crestron LCD Touchscreen remotes.

The first thing to note is that the 622 uses dual tuners to begin with, and less well known is the fact that the tuner/STB outputs simultaneously to all ports - for example, out to HDMI is hot as is out to S-Video [this becomes important in the hybrid model].

When one sets up the platform, a connection is made from the STB tuner and the S-Video out is used to feed the Vista WMC [this is used to support standard definition TV/Recording]. The HDMI out, or component out, is used to support HDTV viewing - this preserves the entire STB hard drive for high def recordings.

In the case of the 622, one may extend the high def content to a second location in a home/office and leverage its RF Remote to support it - HD recordings will also be available.
Using lower end models, like Dish's 211 can be used similarly, but they do not have a DVFR/PVR - point is, one can mix content and use a WMC to record standard def TV.

The final part is to set up the remote and specifiy inputs for different activities - setting up one for HDTV - where the guide and presents are set to use the STB and its drive for HDTV, and watch SD TV [as an example], is set up to watch recorded SD programming via the WMC.

Due to how the remote is set up, the experience is transparent to the user/customer and HD is canalized as a separate experience.

One thing to note: in most cases, cable HD is of lower quality than Dish satellite - where cable is in 720P only and sat HDTV is in 1080i. While not 1080P, there is a big difference in the quality one can see with Dish over the cable companies and the STB's the dish networks use feature the simultaneous out over S-Video that allows a hybrid solution to be supported.

While not perfect, it is the only way we have found to mix a good HD experience w/o cable card support. Here's a pic of one we did recently, - the system is built into the cabinet. The only thing I didn't like about the build was that the customer did not want any holes/ports created in the wall - so the wire from the set had to be routed where it could be seen [a little], but other than that, it went well.

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