November 16, 2005 1:59 PM PST

Microsoft inks cable deal for HDTV support

Microsoft has finalized a deal with the cable industry that should pave the way for PCs to display high-definition cable TV by next year's holiday season, the company said Wednesday.

The pact, with the industry's technical arm, CableLabs, means that PCs with Microsoft's Media Center features will be able to display digital cable--both standard and high-definition flavors--without a set-top box. Microsoft has offered support for over-the-air HDTV since last fall, but the cable deal has taken some time.

"We have been working in earnest over the course of the past year with the cable industry to enable this scenario," said Ron Pessner, a senior director in Windows Client unit. "There are a number of pieces that needed to come together."

In addition to approving the technical workings of Microsoft's OS, CableLabs had to sign off on Microsoft digital rights management technology.

With the deal, PC makers will be able to include a slot for a small PC card, known as a CableCard, that eliminates the need for a separate set-top box. However, communication is only one way, so some features like pay-per-view and on-demand programming still require a set-top box.

With the approval, Microsoft plans to build support for CableCards into Windows Vista, the new version of Windows that is due out next year. The company has said that Media Center features will be part of some flavors of Vista, but it has not announced whether it will be a separate "Media Center Edition" as was the case with Windows XP.

Microsoft has already added support for high-definition content to the Xbox 360, which can act as a receiver, playing back content that is stored on a Media Center PC in another room.

9 comments

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Microsoft controls everything, eh?
So Microsoft will monitor my bank account via Money, send me ads, and now will make sure I get my HDTV, (with copy protection of course).

No thanks. I'll go with non-MS alternatives.
Posted by R. U. Sirius (745 comments )
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Sure
Sure, it would be better for Microsoft to _not_ try to provide a simple, intregrated solution that customers actually want. That makes sense. *rolls eyes*
Posted by just_some_guy (231 comments )
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Great for MCE Owners
I really like my media center, some of the non microsoft alternatives like BeyondTV and others are excellent too, but MS is getting the integration of all the components right.
Posted by robanga (47 comments )
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well...
Well at least someone started the deal hopefully this will continue on in the industry over the next decade. We may be able to actually have some fun with all our media one of these days.
Posted by chuchucuhi (233 comments )
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almost right...
they should be implementing IEEE 1394 support into their
systems so that a high quality option exists to the wireless
networking.
Posted by Adam Lenio (11 comments )
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It is about time
Now, if they could get the same deal with DirectTV, all would be good. I don't even use my current MCE computer for TV viewing, because of these limitations.
Posted by just_some_guy (231 comments )
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What about the rest of the world?
So based on this article, US customers will soon have the choice
of not just one but two HDTV sources for Windows MCE (FTA and
Cable).

Meantime, the rest of the world has zero, none, nought, bubcus,
diddly squat, not a sausage, zilch.

When are Microsoft going to get off their fat ass and support
DVB-C and DVB-S? Nevermind DVB-S2.

Microsoft's current 'solution' requires you to use an ANALOGUE
connection (thats sooooo last millennium). Note: Analogue
cannot do HD, therefore MCE cannot do HD.

Not only are Microsoft loosing out on selling MCE to me a _Mac_
user, but they also loose out on selling me an XBox 360 to act as
a Media Extender. Sky also loose out to the tune of hundreds of
pounds a year in subscription fees.

Note: the free open source Media Portal program can do this and
yet the world's biggest software company cannot manage it.
Posted by (4 comments )
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