CableCARD Opens Up, but Does the Marketplace?

The news at CEDIA that CableCARD will now be open to all has got everyone worked up about Microsoft getting things right and that the platform is back where it needs to be.  However, while the news of CableCARD getting unlocked from OEM only machines is fantastic I’m not sure it chances much in the marketplace.

First of all, AMD appears to be out of the marketplace which is actually a much bigger deal than people might think.  While this hasn’t been confirmed, reports out of CEDIA showed that AMD didn’t have a lot to say about CableCARD in general.  Most likely the only reason we are seeing updated firmware for current OCURs is because AMD never actually wrote the firmware for the cards, Digital Keystone did.  Clearly competition is the best way to drive prices down, so AMD not focusing on the market isn’t a good thing.

The big news it Ceton will actually be releasing an MOCUR for retail consumption.   This isn’t the BOCR I have talked about in the past (CableLabs still hasn’t published any specs for that), but it is the first MOCUR.   My question here is what kind of distribution will Ceton be able to get?  I’m not exactly expecting the card to show up at my local Best Buy.  If CableCARD tuners aren’t going to be available at brick-and-mortar retailers the concept of the market opening up dramatically is still slim.  Maybe Dell and HP get back into the market now that OEM BIOS isn’t required, but they seem to have a bad taste in their mouth from previous experiences plus selling the tuners with new PCs gets us right back to where we were before.

Price is another issue when we talk about expanding the current marketplace.  Preliminary reports are that Ceton is currently targeting a price between $300-$600, which would be a huge upgrade from current AMD pricing, but this is still very costly when you consider 46 out of the 65 PCs Best Buy lists on their website cost $750 or less.  Without a big retail partner Ceton will surely not be an AMD-sided production run which means prices are likely to be higher simply because economics of scale doesn’t work.  Maybe if/when Hauppauge ships a CableCARD tuner the distribution side will be fixed (however, I don’t believe the HD PVR has retail distribution either).

There is still the possibility that Microsoft would market this for the living room, but that’s still highly unlikely.  Trust me, the lack of cable HDTV isn’t the one thing that stopped Microsoft from ever marketing Media Center and Extender’s, and it surely won’t change that.  Microsoft isn’t likely to ever market Media Center or Extender’s, or any pairing of the two.

It is no doubt the Media Center community will jump on this change, but do you believe Media Center is now in a better place to expand in the marketplace now that CableCARD is not locked to an OEM machine?

Microsoft Enhances the Digital Cable Experience and Names 2009 Windows Media Center Ultimate Install Winner

Customers get new capabilities, more options, and a better digital cable experience in Windows Media Center.

ATLANTA, Sept. 9 – Today at CEDIA EXPO 2009, Microsoft Corp. discussed key Windows Media Center features for Windows 7 and announced a series of initiatives that enhance the digital cable experience in Windows Media Center. With the addition of native support for additional international broadcast TV standards, including QAM and ATSC, there will now be support for switched digital video (SDV), a new tool that will make it possible for end customers to add a digital cable tuner with CableCARD to their PC, and for existing digital cable tuner with CableCARD customers to enjoy more portability for digital cable TV that is marked as “copy freely” (CF). In addition, Microsoft and the Media Center Integrator Alliance (MCIA) announced the winner of the 2009 Windows Media Center Ultimate Install Contest, showcasing the many ways Windows Media Center can be used in a whole-home solution.

“We’re continuing to work on creating opportunities for partners that will enable great entertainment experiences on the PC,” said Craig Eisler, corporate vice president of entertainment client software for the TV, Video & Music Business at Microsoft. “Consumers understand that having access to content via the PC is critical when it comes to entertainment experiences, and with these announcements, we’re underscoring our broader commitment to deliver a rich experience with Windows Media Center.”

Switched Digital Video (SDV) Support Added for Windows Media Center

In response to customer requests and cable providers’ deployment of SDV, Microsoft now supports SDV in Windows Media Center for Windows 7. In conjunction with a device known as a tuning adapter, supplied by a customer’s cable provider, Windows Media Center and a digital cable tuner with CableCARD will be able to tune to SDV channels. Customers can enjoy SDV broadcasts on PCs running Windows Media Center in Windows 7 and a digital cable tuner with CableCARD.

End Customers Can Now Add Digital Cable Tuners With CableCARD to Their PCs

Microsoft and CableLabs announced that customers will now be able to add digital cable tuners with CableCARD to a Windows 7-based PC with Windows Media Center. A new tool will be provided by Microsoft that assesses the PC’s ability to support the solution. This tool will analyze the customer’s PC and enable digital cable support if the PC meets requirements, opening digital cable options to Windows Media Center customers across the country. Microsoft also announced that, with Windows 7, it has increased the number of TV tuners that can be connected to the PC from two to four per tuner type, thereby allowing customers to simultaneously record or watch as many as four digital cable TV channels.

“We are excited that digital cable customers will now be able to take advantage of this new opportunity to bring great cable TV programming to the PC,” said So Vang, vice president of OpenCable at CableLabs. “We are dedicated to helping customers get the most from their cable service, and this will be a great win for both the customer and the cable operators.”

Digital Cable Customers Can Now Enjoy More TV Portability in Windows Media Center

Microsoft and CableLabs also announced that they worked together to enable digital cable tuner with CableCARD customers to enjoy more portability for digital cable TV that is marked as “copy freely” (CF). Customers will be able to play CF-marked digital cable recordings, such as those from local channels, on other PCs, devices and portable media.

Windows Media Center Features in Windows 7 Highlighted

Using new Windows 7 features such as Windows Touch, HomeGroup, Remote Media Streaming and PlayTo, sharing recorded TV, videos, music and pictures throughout the home, while on the road and to remote locations has never been easier. There is also support for the AVCHD format. This allows customers to view HD video from many popular HD video cameras.

In addition, support for the international broadcast TV standards that was released with the Windows Media Center TV Pack 2008 will also be included in Windows Media Center in Windows 7. This includes native support for both ATSC and QAM, the ability to remap channels, and support for subchannels.

New Firmware for ATI TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuners

In conjunction with the Microsoft and CableLabs announcements, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) will be providing a new firmware update that is available to all ATI TV Wonder digital cable tuners being used with Windows 7 and Windows Vista. This firmware update will allow existing digital cable tuner with CableCARD customers to enjoy more portability for digital cable TV marked as CF. Customers will be able to play CF-marked digital cable recordings, such as those from local channels, on other PCs, devices, and portable media. In addition, the firmware will contain support for SDV. When installed on a Windows 7-based PC with a digital cable tuner with CableCARD and a tuning adapter from a cable provider, it enables access to switched digital channels in locations where SDV has been deployed.

2009 Windows Media Center Ultimate Install Contest Winner Announced

Microsoft, in collaboration with the Media Center Integrator Alliance (MCIA), announced the winner of the 2009 Windows Media Center Ultimate Install Contest. The winning installation was submitted by Dustin Anderson, general manager at Vision Audio in Lubbock, Texas, who built a system with Windows Media Center at the core of the entertainment experience in an extensive whole-home installation for a customer in Odessa, Texas. The installation integrates six Windows Media Center-based servers, one Windows Home Server, five dedicated theater-style rooms, 12 media racks, 98 speakers, and 30 zones of distributed audio. The home includes products from key MCIA member companies such as Autonomic Controls Inc., Crestron Electronics Inc. and Niveus Media Inc.

The Windows Media Center Ultimate Install Contest, now in its third year, encourages integrators to show off their talents by presenting their most unique and creative installations that leverage Windows Media Center technologies. Vision Audio’s integration of the family’s music, movies, videos and pictures, as well as the integration of Windows Media Center and Windows Home Server with the Crestron home automation system, and the large scope of the installation set it apart as the winner for 2009.

“We’re thrilled to receive this recognition from Microsoft and the MCIA. The Windows Media Center platform has enabled us to be on the cutting edge of technology, which has provided us with critical business advantages during the economic downturn,” Anderson said.

More information on the contest and images from the install can be found online at

Also on Display at CEDIA EXPO 2009

At the Microsoft booth at CEDIA EXPO 2009, Microsoft will show additional hardware and software installations that enhance the digital cable experience. Demonstrations include these:

  • The new Zune HD portable media player using the Zune HD AV dock to display 720p content on an HDTV. The Zune HD and updated Zune PC software will launch on Sept. 15.
  • A home server powered by Windows Home Server software. The upcoming Windows Home Server Power Pack 3, currently in beta testing, will add enhancements for Windows Media Center. Power Pack 3 features include the option to move recorded TV content to the home server in a variety of resolutions, and the ability for users to see statistics about the home server through Windows Media Center.
  • A technology preview of the new Multi-Channel Cable TV Card from Ceton Corp., which enables PCs with Windows Media Center to play or record multiple live channels of premium HDTV at once, and stream live HD channels or recordings to multiple TV sets throughout the home, all with a single CableCARD.

OCURs Finally Approved for Tuning Adaptor Support

While I still haven’t seen specs updated to confirm how I believe CableLabs would handle Tuning Adaptor’s with OCURs , I can confirm that the next firmware release (in theory 1.19) will support Tuning Adaptors as CableLabs has officially approved all ATI OCURs as Tuning Adaptor ready (hooray for me being wrong!).  In addition the firmware should allow for less DRM on non-flagged CableCARD recordings.  Expect more next week at CEDIA.

This is one of the very few predictions that Ben at Engadget HD made that I believe will come true.

Going Beyond The Enthusiast Market

Charlie Owen, a former Media Center team member wrote a post this week about Media Center expanding its marketplace, specifically going from the current enthusiast market to a more mainstream market.  Charlie analysis comes to the pretty simple answer of It’s possible, but highly unlikely at this point.”

I had previously come to this conclusion, but to me the real question is “will Microsoft attempt to develop for the enthusiast market?”  Lucky for me, Charlie replied to my comment with exactly what I was expecting

Charlie: “No. That’s because they have never done so. The enthusiast market is always a subset of the overall market any product targets. Put another way: Where the goal is making a profit you wouldn’t sacrifice a broad market opportunity of 100 for the narrow enthusiast market of 10. Making a Microsoft-sized profit is different than making a profit if you were a much smaller company.”

In other words the future for Media Center is one or two options.  Option 1: Microsoft stops development of Media Center (very unlikely).  Option 2: Microsoft transitions Media Center to a market which has the possibility to create a “Microsoft-sized profit.” (Hint: TV on your PC)  Re-quoting myself from early this year, the days of Media Center being billed as the do-it-all center of your home are over.

My opinion continues to be that Microsoft will focus more and more on the Xbox 360 as the center of the home.  The benefits of the Xbox 360 over Media Center are almost endless from a business perspective.  The massive amount of end users (an unquestionable 30 million, with 20 million of them being Xbox Live subscribers) means content providers are going to flock to the platform.  Microsoft can sit back and rake in yearly recurring revenue from these 20 million Xbox Live subscribers along with the massive amounts of licensing accessories and the Xbox 360 brand.  Media Center on the other hard makes Microsoft absolutely no money as it is a part of the standard Windows SKU (eg. No one except members of The Green Button ever purchased a Windows license just to get Media Center).

There are still people holding out hope for Media Center to become a platform for the home.  The recent announcement that Dish Network will not be shipping their tuner anytime soon didn’t surprise me one bit.  Why would Dish bother to continue with Media Center when it is pretty clear Microsoft is moving away from the consumer they thought they were buying into?  This same concept is at play with Media Center Extender’s.  There is still some hope that Toshiba will be releasing an Extender, but I think the concept that most people miss is that whether it gets released or not means little in the grand scheme of things.  If Microsoft’s heart is not in providing a platform for the home, you can really know going into your purchase that you’re going to end up disappointed at some point.

The biggest question mark might be Windows Home Server.  For years I have said the concept of including Media Center in Windows Home Server is pointless and does nothing to expand the current market.  If HP ditched Extender’s and CableCARD due to poor sales, why exactly would they have the least bit of interest in shipping a Media Center+Home Server box?  If OEMs are not interested, why is Microsoft going to develop it?

Most people underestimate the OEMs when talking about Media Center.  OEMs are really responsible for Media Center from start to finish from a customer’s perspective.  HP and Dell have shown they have little interest in Media Center by either discounting CableCARD PCs, killing off Extender’s, and even in HPs case killing off their HT-styled z-series Media Centers.  Dish Network and DIRECTV are just as important and have shown that they are increasing less interested.

Microsoft’s latest attempt to make a market for Media Center has been the custom integrator channel, and some have big expectations for what Microsoft might have in store.  Sadly most of the possibilities have already been proven false, and based on what I’ve been told from those in the industry interest in Media Center in the custom channel is dropping fast.  I’m interest to see how much longer Microsoft attempts to push into the market.  With their partner OEMs such as HP, Linksys, Dish Network pulling out these leaves the custom OEMs like Niveus Media and Life|ware to pick up the slack.  Unfortunately there is only such much they can do.  If Microsoft’s commitment in the channel falls it might be the end of the custom market experiment.

So once again the question is what’s next.  Recently there have been some great new bloggers show up in the Media Center community with some great suggestions.  I’m done with suggestions.  Microsoft knows exactly what we want, let’s not pretend they don’t.  The issue is it is no longer in their best interest to pursue most of it.  What’s next?  Who knows.  All I want at this point is for Microsoft to publicly provide a roadmap for what Media Center is to become.

What Do You Think of Windows 7 Media Center?

This weekend I installed Windows 7 on my Media Center and thought about writing a review.  However, I think Ben successfully did that already so rather than try and recreate it I’d rather know what you think.

Looking through Ben’s list of new features and changes, the one thing I noticed was that the vast majority of them are visual changes to the UI or straight up eye candy.  Sure, they add additional functionality but channel logos, TV show images, colored coded EPG, and fancy fading in/out only goes so far when there are dozens of useful features still needed to make Media Center the center of the home.

Features like HomeGroup are great, but once again it doesn’t work with protected CableCARD content and some people aren’t too happy with that.  Several of the other cool features existing in the TV Pack, so if you managed to get it stable enough to use you will see less “new” features in Windows 7 than those who have been using Vista w/o TV Pack.  Overall I’m happy with Windows 7 for my personal use; however it fails to make further inroads into any market except the existing enthusiast market.

What’s your opinion?  What do you like and dislike?  What features are missing?

Is Hulu Coming to Media Center?

I don’t believe that Hulu has a large interest in Media Center, but those very same mockup’s that show Media Center’s “PCTV” marketing also show Hulu as a key experience.  My guess is that the material Microsoft provided to Lippincott said Media Center provides an Internet TV experience, and the designers took that as Media Center providing access to the most popular service for online TV shows.

I don’t believe that the content providers are interested in seeing Hulu on the big screen as it would jeopardize traditional content delivery.  Hulu’s entry into the 10-foot UI marketplace is heavily designed around the desktop PC, and their TOS makes that very clear.

Media Center Gets "PCTV" Marketing in Microsoft Store Mockups

It has been my theory that Microsoft is slowly ditching the concept of using and promoting Media Center as a whole home entertainment experience and moving to the “TV on your PC” concept which they have been actively promoting over the past 6 months.  This concept is something that most Media Center enthusiasts don’t want to believe as it turns Media Center into a product that most current users have no interest in.  What better way to find out the future of Media Center than looking at how it could be presented in the upcoming Microsoft retail stores.

Gizmodo got their hands on some leaked mockups of the retail experience, and while Microsoft’s PR is pushing the leaked images as “early prototypes and concepts of our retail store plans” I think it will further key us in on the future of Windows Media Center.

The images, which are presented in on Gizmodo show Media Center being marketed as “PCTV” with such usage scenarios as “watching the Today Show while checking emails during breakfast” and “watching American Idol while on the blog.”  Other key features in the mockup include PC as a PVR, watching Internet TV, and managing all media in one place.

The mockup of the retail experience is driven by what look to be PC monitors or small screen HDTVs.  A theater setting or living room with Media Center as the center piece doesn’t look to be in the picture if this mockup is to be trusted.  Also missing in the mockup is any mention of Media Center Extender’s.

I have no doubt will we see things that are not clearly outlined in the leaked images, however I do believe the marketing material for Media Center is what we will end up seeing.  Notably missing from the mockups are large displays for Xbox 360, Zune, and even Home Server.  I’m not sure Home Server will get a large amount of square-footage designated to it, but I do expect Zune and Xbox to have their place (both Zune and Xbox are outlined in the product offerings mockup image). 

What’s your opinion, will the marketing for Media Center be focused on whatever PCTV is, or can we expect Media Center being pushed as the 10-foot experience that we really want?

Microsoft Unprepared for Digital TV Switch

Reports suggest that the Digital TV switch in the US went by with little confusion or problems.  Of course, if you rely on Windows Media Center your experience likely wasn’t in line with those reports.  Ben said the transition is causing grief for Media Center users, but for most that might be an understatement. 

Microsoft seemed to think they were prepared; after all they deployed a nice Service Alert tile in Media Center on the 9th that explained the issue.  What they didn’t do is update their servers and other online components to reflect the frequency changes that came with the switch.  Unlike most setups, Media Center replies on online data instead of communication with the ATSC broadcasters.  Microsoft is aware of the issue and seems to be making progress in various places, however this is one of those key updates that Microsoft had loads of time to prepare for and when the switch came it caused mass confusion among users.

The interim fix for the issue in Windows Media Center is to edit the atscchannels.xml file in C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\eHome\EPG\prefs with the updated frequencies.  You can find those frequencies at various websites including TV Fool (just input your zip code) and the FCCs own database.  You can also delete the atscchannels.xml and manually create the channels within Media Center.  To do this navigate to Settings > TV > Guide > Add Missing Channels.  The frequency is the same as the “real” number shown in the TV Fool website.  Doing this manually requires you to assign the EPG listings to the channel through Settings > TV > Guide > Add Listings to Channel.

Update: This should now be fixed, re-run your Guide setup.

Xbox Unveils Entertainment Experiences That Put Everyone Center Stage

Microsoft rewrites the rules on fun with controller-free entertainment, Facebook for your TV, plus instant on 1080p HD streaming video.

LOS ANGELES — June 1, 2009 — The future of home entertainment has a new name: Xbox 360. Today, Microsoft Corp. opened the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) with a historic Xbox 360 briefing that rocked, tweeted, revved and awakened the world to a new era of fun and entertainment. In addition to premiering 10 exclusive new games, revolutionizing the way we watch TV, and making it easier than ever to connect to friends, Xbox also welcomed visionary filmmaker Steven Spielberg to introduce “Project Natal” and controller-free gaming.

“Today with cultural visionaries at our side and controller-free gaming on our horizon, Xbox 360 authored a new page in home entertainment history,” said Don Mattrick, senior vice president for the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft. “For us, this E3 is about breaking down barriers — between generations, between games and entertainment, and most important, between video game players and everyone else — in a way that only Xbox 360 can.”

During its briefing, Microsoft showed why Xbox 360 continues to defy industry sales trends. First: A lineup of blockbuster games to ignite every passion, including “Forza Motorsport 3,” “Alan Wake,” “Halo 3: ODST” and “The Beatles: Rock Band.” Next? A host of groundbreaking Xbox LIVE services, from instant on 1080p HD streaming movies and television to Facebook and tailor-made for your TV. And rounding it all out, “Project Natal,” a whole new way to play, no controller required.

“Project Natal”: No Strings (or Controllers) Attached

Unveiled for the first time to the public was “Project Natal,” pronounced “nuh-tall” and a code name for a revolutionary new way to play, no controller required. See a ball? Kick it, hit it, trap it or catch it. If you know how to move your hands, shake your hips or speak, you and your friends can jump into the fun. The only experience needed is life experience.

Compatible with any Xbox 360 system, the “Project Natal” sensor is the world’s first to combine an RGB camera, depth sensor, multi-array microphone and custom processor running proprietary software all in one device. Unlike 2-D cameras and controllers, “Project Natal” tracks your full body movement in 3-D, while responding to commands, directions and even a shift of emotion in your voice.

In addition, unlike other devices, the “Project Natal” sensor is not light-dependent. It can recognize you just by looking at your face, and it doesn’t just react to key words but understands what you’re saying. Call a play in a football game, and players will actually respond. Want to log onto Xbox LIVE? Simply step in front of the sensor.

“The next step in interactive entertainment is to make the controller disappear,” said Steven Spielberg, visionary director and producer. “With ‘Project Natal,’ we’ll see games that bring everyone together through technology that actually recognizes us.”

The Best of the Internet, Custom-Made for Your TV

Groove, party or connect with a friend. Xbox LIVE, the world’s largest social network on TV, today announced that Facebook and would be tailor-made for your TV, only on Xbox 360. Microsoft also announced Xbox LIVE Party for movies, which allows movie experiences to be shared — on the couch or across the country over Xbox LIVE in supported movies.

“We are always asking ourselves how to make the TV more social,” said John Schappert, corporate vice president of Interactive Entertainment LIVE, Software and Studios at Microsoft. “By bringing Facebook, and Xbox LIVE Party for movies and TV shows to Xbox LIVE, we’re not only extending the walls of your living room beyond your home to your friends in different corners of the world, we’re creating the definitive social network, uniting more than 200 million people to share status updates, pictures, thoughts on music and the world’s best online gaming experience.”

The addition of Facebook to Xbox LIVE means friends are always connected, anytime, anywhere — from virtually any couch. But updating your status and sharing photos won’t be the only things you can do. Using Facebook Connect, you can share your greatest moments in gaming by posting updates and screenshots from supported games directly to Facebook. Don’t let your moment of glory fade away — make sure everyone sees it with Facebook Connect, starting with the future version of the premier EA SPORTS golf franchise “Tiger Woods PGA TOUR®.”

A first for TV,,1 part of the CBS Interactive Music Group, will give Xbox LIVE subscribers access to millions of songs streaming through Xbox 360 to the best speakers in the house. Xbox LIVE subscribers will be able to create their own free, personalized radio stations and listen to them with friends in the living room or across the country.

Xbox 360 also solidified its place as one of the leading social entertainment networks by announcing Xbox LIVE Party for movies. Go to the cinema with your friends whether you are sitting on the same couch or in living rooms across the country. Starting this year, you can share a virtual theater, see your avatar (a virtual you) on the screen, all while you listen to each other laugh and cry at the movie through voice chat on Xbox LIVE. With movie parties, the only thing you can’t share is the popcorn.

Read Full Press Release

Microsoft Connects the Dots with Zune HD, Zune Marketplace, and Xbox

This week Microsoft took the wraps off the next Zune, dubbed Zune HD.  It seems to be your basic next-generation touch screen only media player with the common additions of WiFi and an web browser (IE based).  There are some other interesting parts such as a HD Radio tuner, an OLED screen, multitouch, and even HD output at 720p via a dock.

The most interesting part of the announcement is not the device, but rather the service.  The Zune Marketplace will now integrate with the Xbox LIVE Marketplace, finally drawing a realistic picture of Microsoft’s “3 screen” vision of the future. Getting the most press is the HD Radio tuner, the non-HD resolution of the OLED screen, and the concept of Microsoft competing with the iPod touch.

HD Radio tuner doesn’t do much for me, it will give people a chance to explore something they likely have never heard of before, and apparently the FM radio tuner has been a big selling point among existing Zune buyers.  The resolution on the OLED screen is only 480×272, which many have noted is not even close to HD.  I’m not really sure why people think they need 1080p on a portable player, the lower resolution screen likely benefits the majority of people who put low-bitrate and resolution content on the device in the first place.  If you have HD content, the dock now outputs 720p over HDMI.  The big question in terms of resolution is actually what codec’s and resolutions it supports syncing.  If it supports all popular codecs and HD resolutions, that means I can sync without transcoding.

I have never seen the Zune as a good competitor to the iPod, I don’t feel much different about this one.  Microsoft is still playing catch-up here by connecting their services.  This is something Apple has mostly had for years.  Within the next 2-3 years I can finally see the landscape start to change a bit, but Microsoft is going to have a very hard time going after Apple when you compare numbers.

Lacking is any mention of Media Center, which wasn’t a shock to me personally.  I firmly believe Microsoft has moved on from what most reading this wanted Media Center to be, and of course for years I’ve said the Xbox was the real competition to Media Center (this will become much clearer as we go on).  Connecting the Xbox, Zune, and Windows finally makes all of the products marketable.  Microsoft also just announced that Xbox 360 has sold 30 million units and has 20 million on Xbox LIVE.

A few have noted that all the details have not been released and that Media Center integration could still be there.  I don’t anticipate it, but would welcome it.  I doubt we will see this act as a Media Center Extender as many have wanted.  If Microsoft could of improved anywhere in the Zune-Media Center connection I hope it was with syncing content, mainly TV.  The Zune does support syncing TV, but it doesn’t support anything copy protected (CableCARD, likely any future premium Cable/Sat services), and also doesn’t support syncing content with Dolby Digital audio.  If this stays true just about the only TV content the Zune can sync (in the US) will be analog cable/satellite captures.  Even OTA content will be purely Dolby Digital next months, so even your favorite local channels will not sync unless Microsoft decides to change.

Just another Microsoft MVPs site