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ATI's internal OCUR board
Those who want CableCARD support will have to ugprade to Vista Media Center PCs

Microsoft is touting Windows Vista as the definitive next-generation operating system with multimedia capabilities not found in any other system currently available. One of the most talked about features is Windows Vista's support for high definition content, of which is made up of two distinct parts: HDCP and HD CableCARD support. While the former is going to be a mandatory feature requirement for Windows Vista to support high definition video playback, HD CableCARD support is currently a miss and match game right now. Here's why.

Currently, Microsoft documents that Windows Vista will support HD CableCARD but only in the form of pre-built, pre-configured media machines. This means that machines designed to be Windows Vista Media Center PCs will be the only ones that support HD CableCARD content. Customers will not be able to simply go out to their favorite computer store and pick up a HD CableCARD add-in card.

According to reports, this means that ATI's highly anticipated OCUR (Open Cable Uni-directional Receiver) will only be available pre-installed into Windows Vista Media Center PCs. Microsoft previously stated that ATI's OCUR will be supported in Windows Vista. In fact, Microsoft said that Windows Vista will be capable of supporting up to four tuners. ATI's OCUR was originally slated to arrive sometime later this year, but with Windows Vista's delay, it will likely make an appearance inside PCs next year. OCUR is the first true CableCARD tuner for PCs.

What all this means for those thinking of upgrading to Windows Vista later in 2007 is that while Windows Vista will support HD playback with the correct hardware (HDCP enabled), they will not be able to watch broadcasted CableCARD HD content with any currently available PCs. For those who currently own a Windows Media Center PC, CableCARD functionality is unfortunately, out of scope. When Microsoft was asked if customers would be able to go out and buy third party CableCARD tuners, Microsoft's program manager for its eHome division Matt Goyer clearly stated "no." However, Goyer stated that customers would be able to stream OCUR content to a Vista Media Extender, which means customers can watch HD broadcasts on another system that does not have an OCUR device installed -- although having a Windows Vista Media PC is still a prerequisite.

True availability of CableCARD add-in products such as OCUR won't be clear until after Windows Vista ships, but some believe that OCUR products may become available in the grey market. Despite the hint of hope, Cable Labs stated that it will be very strict about CableCARD products for the PCs and there is a good chance that grey market products will not be available.

As for standard HDTV viewers, TiVo recently claimed that its upcoming dual CableCARD Series3 box will be available shortly. TiVo said that the unit has already been distributed to some major cable providers for testing. The company hopes to have the new Series3 out on the market by late fall.

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Does Microsoft actually want anyone to upgrade?
By Laney327 on 8/2/2006 11:58:14 AM , Rating: 2
I just wonder with all the things that they keep taking out, do they expect people to actually upgrade?

I understand that people will buy new PCs with it, but at this point there doesn't seem like much of a reason to upgrade. Windows XP with SP2 is stable and can do everything I need of it at the moment, why would I upgrade to Vista other than the 3D folders? Maybe that is just me, what do you guys think?

By Homerboy on 8/2/2006 12:03:14 PM , Rating: 2
DX10 will sucker game-freaks in

By R Nilla on 8/2/2006 12:08:55 PM , Rating: 2
Preliminary tests have shown that games perform worse on Vista than XP (with current gen cards and games), but we'll see what happens when the DX10 cards are unleashed...

Granted, tests have been with Vista Beta, but for now, there seems to be no reason for even gamers to switch over.

By EarthsDM on 8/2/2006 12:08:42 PM , Rating: 2
Direct-X Ten is the only thing that Vista has going for it now. Am I the only one that thinks the Microsoft is punishing us for not learning to use UNIX? When Media Center Edition came out, it was OEM only as well. Maybe they won't let people DIY because of horrific driver issues, like quad SLI.

By Laney327 on 8/2/2006 12:15:05 PM , Rating: 2
My problem is that DX10 isn't really a part of Vista. It just comes with it. There is no reason that XP couldn't run DX10 if Microsoft wanted to write it for XP.

By BarryGoffe on 8/2/2006 2:27:21 PM , Rating: 2
DX10 takes advantage of the new Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) that is only avaiable in Windows Vista. What WDDM does is significantly improve the speed and reliablity of video. For instace, driver code nows run in user mode instead of in kernal mode. This makes it easier for the device manufacturers to write the drivers and it makes the driver less likely to crash your system should there be issues with the driver. There are a bunch of other technical innovations underlying WDDM that are independent of DX10 but that still benefit DX10.

As DX10 is dependent on WDDM, there is no way to port DX10 down to XP.

By Zoomer on 8/5/2006 11:47:40 PM , Rating: 2
If it runs in user space, and not kernel space, shouldn't it run slower, not faster?

It doesn't make sense.

By creathir on 8/2/2006 12:16:16 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, Vista Ultimate edition includes ALL MCE components.

It prob. has to do with the TPM chip more than anything.

- Creathir

RE: Does Microsoft actually want anyone to upgrade?
By Webgod on 8/2/2006 1:32:50 PM , Rating: 2
The TPM chip is only for optional hard drive encryption. There's been no word that Vista MCE requires it, only speculation.

By creathir on 8/2/2006 3:22:04 PM , Rating: 2
The TPM chip is for storing encryption keys for all sorts of services, not just hard drive encryption. That is currently where most of the "benefits" are for right now, given the digital distribution networks are just in their infancy... but in the future... who knows...
- Creathir

Same old
By Alphafox78 on 8/2/2006 11:40:14 AM , Rating: 2
It is unbelieveable to me that there is no way for htpc owners to watch HD content. I have to sufice for standard def upscaled to HD as well as DVDs upscaled. Even though I have a HD cable box and TV I cant have the signal go through my htpc. what is the big deal here???? either give me a line in card that accepts component or DVI or let me get a HD tuner (NOT over the air tuner, but HD CABLE tuner). if this cable card thing is truly the only way to recieve HD content from cable companies and there is no retail card for purchase this is most likely the end of HTPCs. (except for oems, why are they so special to be able to get one of these cards?)

RE: Same old
By nikeairj on 8/2/2006 11:53:15 AM , Rating: 2
I'm sure they will find a way eventually and besides, we can always wait for someone to make one for a linux box. Linux's free, isn't it? :)

RE: Same old
By dice1111 on 8/2/2006 6:26:44 PM , Rating: 1
I Cable Labs going to support Linux with drivers and software? If not, I really hope the Linux corwd is up for the task.

I want a CableCARD, but I'm not buying a whole PC to get one.

RE: Same old
By dice1111 on 8/2/2006 6:28:44 PM , Rating: 2
Is Cable Labs going to support Linux with drivers and software? If not, I really hope the Linux crowd is up for the task.

*I typed this way too fast, sorry for typo's*

RE: Same old
By Chadder007 on 8/2/2006 12:14:42 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah I know its rediculous isn't it? Only two companies with QAM tuners for PCs....1 card out with HDMI connectors...most cards do not have HDCP support at all. Its like no one wants to step out with support for anything having to do with Cable HDTV hardly at all. ARGH!!

RE: Same old
By wmansfield on 8/2/2006 1:52:17 PM , Rating: 2
That's probably because every time someone comes out with a product that might actually benefit the end user the company gets sued.

This is not Microsoft's fault
By BarryGoffe on 8/2/2006 2:20:25 PM , Rating: 2
CableLabs will only allow 'certified' Windows Vista systems to ship with OCUR. They do this to ensure that the their constituents' (remember that CableLabs is a consortium of cable providers) content cannot be pirated. Since an end user's system that is upgraded cannot technically be checked to ensure it passes certification, CableLabs has prohibited this. Only OEMs have the wherewithall and resources to pass CableLabs stringent testing requirements.

To be clear, this totally sucks - but it is not a Microsoft issue. Even though it may be tempting, please don't blame all of the world's ills on Microsoft.


RE: This is not Microsoft's fault
By sdsdv10 on 8/2/2006 3:05:13 PM , Rating: 2
^What he said.^ ;-)

One question. Does anyone know what will be unique in the preconfigured systems that a DIY will not be able to duplicate. Presumably, the CarbleCard will still be some type of add-in. As such, what will be the key locking the system down so that the card couldn't be removed and placed in another PC?

RE: This is not Microsoft's fault
By Master Kenobi on 8/2/2006 3:59:42 PM , Rating: 2
I give it about 30 days after we see these on the market, by then people will have figure out how to fake it, either with a utility or special drivers, and you will be able to plug these into DIY boxes.

RE: This is not Microsoft's fault
By dev0lution on 8/3/2006 1:50:21 AM , Rating: 2
It's cablelab's fault. I guess they haven't heard that OEM's sell all sorts of products out to the grey market, so you'll be able to pick up an OCUR card on eBay by the time all the major bugs from the initial Vista launch in mid 2007 (if we're lucky) are worked out.

It is Cable Labs fault
By Christopher1 on 8/5/2006 6:31:25 PM , Rating: 1
And I wouldn't be surprised if we see a lawsuit against them for this outrageous demand.
People want simple, like others here have said, and they want to be able to upgrade their current computers to support new things.

Cable Lab might find out that this isn't going to fly, and so are the cable companies and movie companies when they are unable to sell their services.

That Blows!
By wackypete on 8/2/2006 11:45:09 AM , Rating: 1

RE: That Blows!
By phatboye on 8/2/2006 11:57:38 AM , Rating: 3
I build my own computers, I have not bought a prebuilt computer in years (1998 was the last time I bought a prebuilt computer). I never understood why does m$ care so much if we get third party add-in cablecard devices or if we get pre-built systems with cablecard functionality. This is just stupid to me.

RE: That Blows!
By PAPutzback on 8/2/2006 2:03:32 PM , Rating: 2
I totally agree. I have been waiting for the last year for the ability to build a nice little shuttle box with a Cable Card. My only hope is that someone comes with a work around like a barebones system. Kinda like the scam of having to buy the MCE remote to get a version of MCE. I just want to slap Bill and his Kronies in the face for giving us hope with each OS release and then stomping it and giving us just a taste.

RE: That Blows!
By brystmar on 8/2/2006 3:05:02 PM , Rating: 2
The decision was made by CableLabs, not by Microsoft. They basically told MS that they wouldn't allow CableCARD support for PCs unless it came in a closed, "secure" OEM package. CableLabs said they would disable the cards' ability to interface with a PC at the hardware level unless this condition was met, and MS had no choice but to agree to their demands. It's entirely CableLabs' fault (due to pressure from the networks & movie studios), and it's also completely f*ing ridiculous.

Here's hoping for a grey-market card.

you know...
By kattanna on 8/2/2006 11:56:39 AM , Rating: 2
with all the ease of use that current media center PC's have with connecting to all the various video/audio devices out there to play it all properly..

i can't imagine WHY i haven't bought one yet...

RE: you know...
By Homerboy on 8/2/2006 12:06:40 PM , Rating: 2
whats funny is all this is supposed to be "easier" for the average consumer so that they can enjoy HDTV, Blu-Ray, HDDVD, and HTPCs... but even I as a semi-interested "techno-geek" have completely lost track of WTF is going on with all this at this point. No matter what joe-consumer buys now, or in the foreseeable future, they are going to be getting scrwed or missing out on some aspect due to incompatibility etc. Its a painful joke.

All these A/V technologies, patents, new formats, new interfaces etc are all shooting themselves in the foot at this point.

RE: you know...
By MAIA on 8/10/2006 1:57:28 PM , Rating: 2
QFT !!! QFT !!!

RE: you know...
By rippleyaliens on 8/24/2006 12:45:51 AM , Rating: 2
you hit it on the money..
I am not buying JACK, lol.. I spent 2400 on a sony xbr wega tv. WICH ROCKS,, 1080 whatever.. BUT with all that . my piece of garbage cable, still is analog.. lol..
PC hd, yah, like i will be sitting infront of my monitor to watch tv? they are indeed going overboard with these standards, i myself, will wait till HDCP= HDVISTA-HDYAHOO, WHATEVER, once
it is at walmart, then yah, i will believe in the standard, until then, forget it,

DRM is why
By Ecmaster76 on 8/2/2006 12:12:08 PM , Rating: 3
Microsoft doesn't want you installing the card in a system without the Truted Protection Module (TPM). Vista uses the TPM to make sure all the haxors haven't intercepted the decoded signal and made illegal/fair use copies of HD content.

Of course, a real pirate will just read the signal from the output of the HDCP decoder inside a 1080P monitor and have a perfect copy. But then, we all know this has never been about stopping the REAL pirates

RE: DRM is why
By BarryGoffe on 8/2/2006 2:22:57 PM , Rating: 2
The TPM (Trusted Platform Module) is only used for the Windows BitLocker Drive Encryption feature - which is a data protection feature not a DRM feature. BitLocker (with a TPM) makes sure that if someone steals your PC or you lose your notebook - that you data is protected from loss.

OCUR support is available on the Home Premium edition (as well as the Ultimate edition) of Windows Vista and has nothing to do with the a TPM or BitLocker.

RE: DRM is why
By Ecmaster76 on 8/2/2006 7:29:55 PM , Rating: 2
How are they going to tie the Cablecard to the OEM PC?

Apple already uses the TPM to limit OS X to Apple hardware. It no great stretch for it to be used similiarly by windows.

No big deal...
By kibets on 8/2/2006 11:24:21 AM , Rating: 2
I'm glad I waited...

I don't even have an HDTV yet. I'm looking forward to selecting a new Vista PC next year once everything is finalized!

RE: No big deal...
By Tsuwamono on 8/2/06, Rating: 0
RE: No big deal...
By MAIA on 8/10/2006 1:52:53 PM , Rating: 2
A good OS should be made for everyone using good ideas, and not this politics POS attitude micro$oft likes to do business.

I don't give a damn really. Other OS's will skip this stupid regulations.

Hasta la vista, Vista ...

By Anemone on 8/4/2006 8:44:51 PM , Rating: 2
This policy is better known as:

How to totally destroy a technically advanced feature before it gets off the ground.

I don't know if Microsoft read their own book but the world wants simple. They don't want complications. Complicated things and complicated technologies die on the store shelves.

So if you don't find a way to make it simple and easily accessible, you'd better be ready to explain to the Board how much money you wasted and why exactly you couldn't make it work in the market.

For a company of smart folks, they sure can ACT like real idiots sometimes...

RE: stillborn
By Seymourbbuts on 8/5/2006 9:25:21 PM , Rating: 2
The smart people don't make the decisions.

By mk1987 on 8/2/2006 11:53:36 AM , Rating: 2
You know its just a matter of time though until someone hacks the drivers or vista so that it works.

What is the point?
By creathir on 8/2/2006 12:14:42 PM , Rating: 2
Of Vista Ultimate Edition?
This is the off the shelf version of the product that can play games, connect to your work, record your TV, and be installed on your Tablet PC. Why should I even bother with this if I cannot buy an add-in card? Are they that dense as to "throw the baby out with the bath water" when it comes to computers? I understand from a marketing standpoint they want to sell the overpriced Media Center PCs (or their vendors do), but why even include the software in the Ultimate edition if it will be utterly useless (given that most SD content is on the way out) in a year or two? Big mistake. I'm usually an AVID Microsoft fan and almost always an early adopter, but Vista really is starting to not look so hot.

I don't have CableCard technology, and never will as I use Satellite anyway (so it would have been impossible for me to take advantage of Cable Card support) but I frankly do not understand where Microsoft is coming from on this front. My only guess is that it is to ensure the Media Center PCs have TPM chips onboard or whatnot, but this copyprotection junk is really getting out of hand. What better way to kill off the desire for HD content than by making the end user REPLACE their entire system in order to recieve better TV/DVD quality. These money grubbing freaks really do not understand business and what people do. If you make it so that it is unenjoyable to recieve the entertainment, either people will say "SCREW IT", or they will find ways around the copy protection. In the NEAR future, I see HDCP protection removal devices really picking up pace as a market, as well as component video TV capture cards becoming a reality. I know I would purchase the capture card for sure. The legality of a protection removal device of course would cause many to think twice about that, but a component video capture device really needs to exist, and QUICK.

- Creathir

"Game reviewers fought each other to write the most glowing coverage possible for the powerhouse Sony, MS systems. Reviewers flipped coins to see who would review the Nintendo Wii. The losers got stuck with the job." -- Andy Marken
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