If you don't have a 64-bit processor, don't bother

If any of you out there were planning on adding a Blu-ray or HD DVD drive to your PC in the near future to playback high-definition content on your PC, you're going to be out of luck with a 32-bit processor and the upcoming 32-bit version of Windows Vista. Microsoft Senior Program Manager Steve Riley made the announcement today during Tech.Ed 2006 in Sydney Australia.

“Any next-generation high definition content will not play in x32 at all. This is a decision that the Media Player folks made because there are just too many ways right now for unsigned kernel mode code [to compromise content protection]. The media companies asked us to do this and said they don’t want any of their high definition content to play in x32 at all, because of all of the unsigned malware that runs in kernel mode can get around content protection, so we had to do this,” said Riley.

In order to playback high definition Blu-ray or HD DVD content, your PC must have a 64-bit processor and a 64-bit version of Windows Vista. Running a 64-bit version of Vista means that all drivers have to be signed. This ensures that content protection is kept in place and is something that the movie studios have been pushing for to get help stomp out piracy.

Although AMD has been pushing 64-bit AMD Athlon 64 and Turion 64 processors for quite some time in the consumer space, it wasn’t until recently that Intel made a large push for 64-bit in the consumer space with the launch of its Core 2 Duo processors for desktop and mobile platforms.

Update 08/25/2006:  Microsoft PR manager Adam Anderson tells CNET that the original statement made by Riley is partially incorrect and, "It is up to the ISVs providing playback solutions to determine whether the intended playback environment, including environments with a 32-bit CPU, meets the performance requirements to allow high-definition playback while supporting the guidelines set forth by the content owners.  No version of Windows Vista will make a determination as to whether any given piece of content should play back or not."  

However, even Anderson is not correcting Riley's statement that WMP11 will not play Blu-ray or HD DVD content.  Instead he claims support will come from 3rd party vendors like Cyberlink. 

"This week I got an iPhone. This weekend I got four chargers so I can keep it charged everywhere I go and a land line so I can actually make phone calls." -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
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