When Microsoft first launched Windows XP Media Center Edition around two years ago it was honestly a very impressive first attempt by Microsoft. By the time MCE 2005 rolled around, you honestly couldn't get a better looking, more responsive and well rounded PVR interface from anyone else. Harnessing the power of today's extremely fast CPUs, Media Center Edition could not be beat - except in one key area: HDTV support.

 

When Microsoft updated MCE at the end of 2004 they finally added HDTV support, with one caveat: it only supported OTA (Over The Air) HDTV signals - in other words, only HDTV channels you could get over an antenna. There was no support for premium HD channels such as HBO HD, which meant that MCE's HDTV support was basically useless.

The lack of any real HDTV support kept Media Center Edition from being a viable option for many. Sure it looked good and was very fast, but for around $10/month you could lease a HD-DVR from your cable company and get more functionality than from your fancy $2000 PC.

Microsoft had originally promised to fix the HDTV support issues in the latest update to MCE, but concerns over DRM protection on HD content was raised and Microsoft's hands were forced into delaying the support until Windows Vista.

If you've been following Vista at all you will know that there will no longer be a standalone MCE OS, rather the support will be bundled into a couple of versions of the OS. Windows Vista Home Premium and Ultimate Editions will both feature media center functionality, and both of those will finally have support for recording of live premium HD content. The HD support itself shouldn't be news to you, but the hardware that enables the support is what we're here to talk about today and the only company that's currently demonstrating it is ATI.

Introducing ATI's OCUR
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  • Venomous - Thursday, January 05, 2006 - link

    Ok, so we get cablecard support. Why is it, everyone keeps forgetting about Satellite people? Its a cold day in hell when i submit to the ripoff programming of cable companies in my area. Ill be impressed when SATV owners are included. Reply
  • Yianaki - Thursday, January 05, 2006 - link

    I bought XP the day it came out and unlike 9x I was extremely happy with the stability and it all around. I do not know if I want to deal with Vista's bloat on any of my boxes. Am I to believe that no one will be coming out with HDTV cable card support in MCE 2005 in the future? I can't say I am nervously waiting for Vista to suck up 512 megs of my memory. I have XP tweaked to 140 MB on loadup and XP suits me fine for the forseable future. Reply
  • Dismal - Thursday, January 05, 2006 - link

    So this card can tune HD and digital channels? I'm a newbie in the tuner world but thought that without connecting your existing cable box to your tuner, you could only tune into analog channels with these cards. Reply
  • SynthDude2001 - Thursday, January 05, 2006 - link

    Yes, that's the whole point of Cable Cards. They can do the decryption that a cable box can, with some limitations as mentioned in the article.

    Personally I think the idea is cool (though it'll likely be dragged down by DRM as others have said), but I don't really have any interest in paying for premium HDTV channels when I can already get the national networks in HD just fine over the air or cable.
    Reply
  • Dismal - Thursday, January 05, 2006 - link

    Ahh, I understand. Thanks for the replies guys. Reply
  • Furen - Thursday, January 05, 2006 - link

    I think that's what the Cablecard slot is for, to allow you to decode the encoded crap your cable provider sends you. Reply
  • AlexWade - Thursday, January 05, 2006 - link

    Just curious, but is it possible that this device will work for Linux instead? Reply
  • Doormat - Thursday, January 05, 2006 - link

    Snowball's chance in hell. DRM is the name of the game here.

    It is possible however, that there would be Mac drivers, allowing the Mac Mini to act like a PVR utilizing Front Row.
    Reply
  • Xenoterranos - Thursday, January 05, 2006 - link

    Well, if there is a MAC driver, then you're only a step away from a serviceable *nix driver for any x86 PC now that MAC's are using intel processors. Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Thursday, January 05, 2006 - link

    I'm betting we'll see a lot similar products from Taiwan and South Korea that will work just fine without all the DRM crap. I'd much rather see a 1394 interface though, since connecting multiple ones to your PC is going to drive up the CPU utilization over USB. Reply

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