CableCARD Now Open To All, No Need For OEM Installations - HotHardware
CableCARD Now Open To All, No Need For OEM Installations

CableCARD Now Open To All, No Need For OEM Installations

For HTPC owners, most thought this day would never come. It's a liberation celebration, and frankly, it's coming way too late. Still, we'll take late over never almost all of the time, so we can't help but thank those involved for finally freeing CableCARDs of the OEM chains. This past week at CEDIA, Microsoft announced that anyone could now purchase an off-the-shelf CableCARD and install it into their system. This has absolutely not been the case in years past.



Up until now, users have had to purchase an entirely new system from a certified OEM (think Dell, HP, etc.) with a CableCARD installed at the factory. If you even attempted to install a loose CableCARD into your own machine, you'd never get anything to work. Without that OEM touch, CableCARDs were worthless. Obviously, this ensured that only the affluent ponied up for a CableCARD-equipped HTPC. After all, who wants to buy an entirely new rig just to use one $100 part?

As Windows 7 enters the fray, users will be able to add CableCARDs to their own systems with little to no hassle. These cards will allow users to access all of their carrier's cable channels right on their HTPC, eliminating the need for a cable box and a media center PC. Switched Digital Video support was also added into Windows Media Center for Windows 7, which definitely comes in handy for those looking to tune into SDV channels.



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

In 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

Microsoft 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.

"We 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

Microsoft 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

Using 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.

In 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

In 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.

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I'm more interested to know how it works with MythTV, as I'd like as little DRM as possible.

If the ATI tuner merely passes the broadcast flag info, we won't have to worry about being randomly blocked by MS from recording shows that the networks arbitrarily decide can't be recorded (ala http://arstechnica.com/old/content/2008/05/nbc-vista-copy-protection-snafu-reminds-us-why-drm-stinks.ars).

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This is fantastic news! I can't wait till they come out with a tuner that has multiple tuners for a single CableCard. Then it's time to go nuts!

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