PC + Digital Cable = Broken

Here's what happens when you mix overly restrictive DRM technologies with the bureaucracy of cable companies, the MPAA, the FCC, ATI/AMD, and numerous other players.  MaximumPC is working on a review of three home theater PCs for an upcoming issue, and while they were impressed with many facets of the machines, they came away disappointed in regard to ATI’s OCUR and the machines’ support for protected digital cable content.

"Here’s a little background if you’re not familiar with OCUR. Following an FCC mandate, cable companies must now allow their customers to access their services using third-party equipment, as opposed to forcing them to rent a set-top box from the service provider. ATI and Microsoft, seeing a golden opportunity to move the PC into the living room in a big way, teamed up to create OCUR (Open Cable Unidirectional Receiver). Pair an OCUR with a CableCard from your cable-TV service provider and you can receive digital cable on your HTPC.

OCUR, believe it or not, was announced more than 18 months ago. But in order to pass muster with Hollywood, Microsoft had to build a massive DRM system into Vista, and ATI had to restrict the availability of OCUR cards (now known as the TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner) to OEM PC manufacturers. The only way you can purchase a TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner is as part of pre-built Vista PC: Do-it-yourself builders like you and me are left out in the cold: We can’t add them to an existing PC, and we can’t build them into a roll-your-own rig."

We’re all for protecting copyrighted material, but these obtrusive, clunky, and essentially broken DRM technologies at work here are proving to be nothing more than a hassle for honest consumers.  Maybe abandoning these DRM technologies and pumping all the money spent on them into finding ways to make it easier and less expensive for consumers to get access to the content they desire would be a good first move?

Tags:  PC, cable, Digital, ita, TAL, cab, K