If you believe the internet, Microsoft is not giving up on television. Despite all growing popularity of IPTV, Over the Top (OTT) content, and talk of doing with it altogether, the software giant is flexing its muscles to make its new Media Center a HDTV content panacea, and that includes Cable TV.
At CEDIA Expo 2009 in Atlanta, the company announced that Windows Media Center in Windows 7 will add native support for QAM and ATSC standards; support for switched digital video (SDV); and a new tool to let users add a CableCard-enabled digital cable tuner to their PC. Windows 7, the next major release of the operating system, is slated for a Oct. 22 launch.
The list above is in addition to previously announced upgrades:
- native support for H.264
- native support for AAC
- signing up numerous IPTV partners including ABC.com
The last item is the one drawing the most attention. For those new to the game, up until now CableCard support had to shipped pre-installed straight from the PC vendor. ATI, now AMD, was one of, if not, the preferred manufacturers for original equipment with this feature set.
AMD has apparently moved on. Their new marketing brand, AMD Vision, is geared at the platform as a whole and video technology ATI Eyefinity dials DirectX up to 11. As MS MVP Chris Lanier writes, CableCard is no longer of AMD’s area of focus, such as when it was promoting AMD Live!
The CableLabs certification was no doubt a factor in this decision. Microsoft’s OEM mandate only complicated the matter by opening up the door for finger pointing if and when implementation problems arose. The lifting of that restriction may just have been too little too late in the eyes of AMD. Without a clear target at the top to shoot for, will there be room for a new leader or will the competition follow and walk away? Stay tuned.
Microsoft, on the other hand, is covering as many bases as it can with its upcoming Windows 7 upgrade to Media Center. After taking much heat for slow deployment of Clear QAM support, the same naysayers will point out lack of Bi-directional CableCard. This means no pay per view, video on demand, or other interactive features. You weren’t going to get everything, not DRM-free.
So if over the air (OTA) is not enough, here is what you will get, provided you’ve purchase the proper hardware :
- Clear QAM, in case you didn’t get the TV Pack or have Silicon Dust’s HDHomeRun
- SDV. Hear that TiVo fans?
- A robust CODEC collection, including all ones supported by the major distributers of HD content over the web
- Rumored improved Netflix experience
All that and improved Smooth Streaming for OTT. So if you haven’t cut the cord yet, hold on. Microsoft may be reeling you in with a reason to keep that subscription and just dump the STB. It will mean upgrading from Vista. You don’t mind do you?