Windows Media Center: Now with more Digital Cable Goodness

At the Windows Media Center event at CEDIA this week, Microsoft announced what many enthusiasts have been waiting for with baited breath: a relaxing of restrictions which made Windows Media Center less attractive to existing PC owners or enthusiasts building homegrown PCs.  The announcements included:

  • Digital Cable Tuner (DCT) support for all.  Up until now, you could only get a digital cable tuner for your PC to work on a pre-built PC from manufacturers such as Dell or HP.  PCs needed to be pre-qualified by CableLabs in what was a process that left a lot of enthusiasts unable to support digital cable on their PCs.  Soon, anyone who builds a PC will be able to enjoy digital cable tuning.  I’m sure ATI is happy as well as one of the premier builders of  cable tuner hardware.
  • TV Portability. As one who has two DCTs on my HTPC, I can relate to the frustration that has existed when trying to copy that content to a portable device such as my laptop or Zune.  Programs such as local television flagged as “Copy Freely” (CF) will now transfer.  I can confirm this works, I’ve seen it in action.
  • SDV Support. This doesn’t mean much to consumers other than ensuring future aggravations are avoided.  As cable systems move to “Switched Digital Video“, as a means of managing their clogged networks by pushing a live feed on an empty channel when a consumer requests to view the network vs. blindly broadcasting all networks on all available channels.  The problem is it requires new hardware to talk to the cable operator and request the channel. 
  • New ATI DCT Firmware for Vista and Windows 7. The new firmware (yet to be released) by ATI for their Digital Cable Tuners will enable the above support.  I can also attest that this new firmware will bring smiles to Media Center fans as I’ve seen it running.  You can expect improvements to the update experience as well – stay tuned for more.

Additional discussion is going on over at  Details on availability haven’t been released yet, but I think we can all expect to see good things October 22nd.  Hopefully this quells concerns about the future of digital cable support in Windows 7.

This got me to thinking – a Windows 7 Media Center builder party in the Seattle area around October 22nd could be fun. 

2 responses to “Windows Media Center: Now with more Digital Cable Goodness”

  1. SDV support is a big deal to this consumer. I moved from a Comcast area with no SDV to a Cox area with lots of mainstream channels (like CNN HD) out of reach without a tuning adapter. But frankly I was hoping for more out of Microsoft at CEDIA. Maybe the Win7 launch will include more announcements.

  2. I just wish the Zune team would get their act together and add support for AC3 audio in their software so we could sync HD content. AVI and MKV transcoding support would be nice as well.