Category Archives: 4845

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 http://www.microsoft.com/ultimateinstall.

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.

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.

Can DISH Network One-Up DIRECTV?

Now that we are fairly certain that DIRECTV
will not ship with Windows 7
, the big question remains to be will DISH
Network?  Around the time the TV Pack
started beta testing, I did
hear that some testers had been contacted about testing DISH Network Tuners
,
and that talk has popped back up in the past few weeks.

Going under my theory that Microsoft has all the plumbing
in-place for DIRECTV support, there is no reason that same framework can’t work
for DISH Network.  If DISH Network wants
to make a Media Center tuner, they can using this framework, and they might have already.

Looking around, their are some other hints about the possible DISH Network Tuner.  Ben’s photos of the eHome Lab show Windows 7
running with a branded Start Menu saying “TV with DISH Network.”  In addition to that, several people, including
Dave Zatz
have brought up the possibility that the unmarked white box in the photo below is a DISH Network tuner. 
Of course, the tuner being in Microsoft’s Lab means nothing as Microsoft as
evidenced by the suspended DIRECTV HDPC-20 tuners also present.

image
(Photos via Engadget
HD
)

Back to the framework which I believe is complete to ship
with Windows 7, here is something Microsoft showed at WinHEC.  That is premium Pay-Per-View TV being ordered via Media
Center.  We know that’s not from
a CableCARD as tru2way tuners don’t have any specs from CableLabs yet.  It chould be DIRECTV, but considering that Channel
510 happens to fall in the range of DISH Networks PPV
and most PPV content
on DISH Network happens to be $4.99, there is a good possibility you are looking
at working PPV via a native DISH Network Tuner.

image

So, should you jump and switch to DISH Network because of
this?  I wouldn’t suggest it.  Should you keep checking back to see when we
get more details?  I’d suggest it.  I’m a DIRECTV customer, so even if this DISH
Network tuner is real I likely wouldn’t be testing it.  That said, I’m looking forward to see what
happen with this.  Given DISH Networks TurboHD package for
$24.99
has every channel I’d ever watch, and the fact I can get ATSC HD
using an antenna in Media Center saving me from having to add HD Locals to the
package, DISH Network does look like a good deal if I could get a native Media
Center tuner.

DIRECTV and Microsoft: What Went Wrong

Now that DIRECTV has suspended development on their HDPC-20
Tuner where does that leave us?  There
are a lot of differing opinions going around about why DIRECTV canned the
tuner, whose fault it is, and where do we go from here.  Most people are pointing the finger at
Microsoft, and with their history of releases how could you not?  This doesn’t mean however that Microsoft is
totally at fault, but let’s look at the whole situation to see how we got
here. 

Timeline

January
2006
– Microsoft and DIRECTV announce partnership to “develop new ways to expand the reach of
digital music, television and movies throughout the home and to portable
devices.”
  Nothing is said
specifically by either party about a Media Center tuner.

January
2006
– Microsoft employee Sean Alexander says “In the future (timing wasn’t discussed), you’ll be able to have an
installer come out and install a DirecTV tuner into your Media Center PC and
get your local channels complete with DVR.”
 
This however, was not an official Microsoft statement.

January
2007
– We really start asking for information about the assumed DIRECTV
Tuner.  DBSTalk.com does Q&A with
DIRECTV at CES, DIRECTV says “Still in
progress, internal beta testing”
when asked about HTPC Tuner cards.  Confirmation that a tuner card is in the
works.

December
2007
– Microsoft states in an online job posting that they are “working with newly developed dual satellite
tuners”
for the next Media Center release.

January
2008
– CES comes around again and DBSTalk.com gets a flyer from the CES
floor for the HDPC-20.  This is the first
official confirmation that the tuner exists. 
CES attendees hear information about the public unveiling of the tuner
to be scheduled later at CES.  This
didn’t happen however, leaving several people confused.  No one from Microsoft or DIRECTV is talking
now.  DIRECTV had the flyers to give out
at the show, so something happened that caused either Microsoft or DIRECTV to
back out of the public announcement.

February
2008
– Top Media Center OEM Niveus Media now lists “HD Satellite” tuner option on their website with “TBD  (To be determined)” availability.

March
2008
– Microsoft started sending out e-mails for the Fiji (codename for
TV Pack) beta program.  Several leaks
happened around this time including an e-mail asking select beta participates
for information about their DIRECTV account.

July
2008
– Fiji beta testers leak more information including DIRECTV and
H.264 support being pulled from the release. 
It is suggested
by some in the beta
that they never received tuners from DIRECTV.

July
2008
– It is reported that Microsoft will be releasing a second Media
Center update in 2008 with nothing to backup the statement.  The proposed purpose of the second update was
to add H.264 and DIERCTV support.  This
didn’t happen.

September
2008
– Subscription news service Consumer Electronics Daily (CED)
reports that Microsoft “continues to
look at ways
” to make the tuner happen and that news will be announced
at “the appropriate time.” 
DIRECTV made no comment in the article.

November 2008 – Ed Bott finds
a driver for the HDPC-20 in the PDC build of Windows 7.

November
2008
– Microsoft invites several bloggers and journalists to tour the
eHome Labs (no, I wasn’t invited).  Ben
Drawbaugh scores pictures of the DIRECTV HDPC-20 working in Microsoft’s Labs.

December
2008
– DIRECTV e-mails several in the community to tell us that DIRECTV
has “suspended the development of the
HDPC-20 tuner…after assessing the impact of missing the August 2008 release of
Windows Media Center update [Fiji, TV Pack] and considering timing of the next
release.”

Talking a Step Back

The big question now is what does all of this mean and who
is at fault.  Let’s explore a few things
here.

Microsoft is a software company; they don’t make hardware
(generally speaking).  Microsoft’s main
goal is to produce various software frameworks so that other companies can come
in and produce hardware to work with their platform.  I’d actually say that this is the reason
Microsoft has been successful as a company, but it is also their largest fault.

Anyway, Microsoft makes software and third parties make
hardware (and most of the time drivers to go with this hardware).  Seeing as Microsoft is going to produce the
software aspect of this DIRECTV Tuner, it means they want to produce a common
framework to allow third parties to integrate a number of different things into
their Media Center platform.  I’ve gone
over this time and time again, but to refresh I’m talking about things like
H.264, Pay-per-view order, content protection, etc.  DIRECTV on the hand has to make the hardware
(or contract it out) to pair with Microsoft’s software framework.

DIRECTV has suggested that they are suspending develop of
their hardware because of the impact of H.264/DIRECTV support not shipping in
the TV Pack and the wait until the next release. (Windows 7, highly publicized to
have a 2009 ship date)

DIRECTV-less TV Pack,
whose fault?

This is a bit hard to answer because outside of DIRECTV and
Microsoft no one really knows.  What we
do know (or rather, think we know) is that Microsoft had plans of shipping
DIRECTV support in the TV Pack as evidenced by the beta e-mails.  We also know (or think we know), that neither
Microsoft nor DIRECTV shipped tuner to beta testers.  Microsoft then cut H.264 and “subscription-based
satellite TV support” before the TV Pack ship date.  Notice they never said they cut DIRECTV
support.

The main thing we don’t know here is why beta testers
reportedly didn’t get tuners.  Hundreds
of options here, but here are three main ones.

  • Possibility that DIRECTV
    didn’t have stable hardware/drivers
  • Possibility that Microsoft
    had issues with H.264 support in the TV Pack
  • Possibility that Microsoft
    had issues with other software aspects in the TV Pack
  • Possibility that Microsoft
    and DIRECTV are fighting like kids about something

There are various possibilities about why beta testers might
not have been shipped tuners and why support was cut from the release.  I don’t think you can make a clear judgment
about who was at fault knowing what we do.

On the Road to
Windows 7

Given on how Microsoft operates, we knew that the next
chance for DIRECTV support was in Windows 7. 
Microsoft doesn’t push out Media Center updates to add functionality
months after a major release.  Things were
now looking good for Windows 7 DIRECTV support, at least from the outside.  CED published reports saying DIRECTV and
Microsoft are still working together, and Windows 7’s projected release date
keep moving up.

Ed Bott finds the drivers in the Windows 7 build, and then
Ben gets pictures of the tuners in the lab. 
We are all thinking that Windows 7 with DIRECTV is a-go.  DIRECTV then says they are “suspended development” of the tuner and
points to the conflicts with the TV Pack as a prime reason along with the “timing of the next [Media Center] release.”

What’s DIRECTV
Hiding?

Lets say Microsoft and
DIRECTV missed the TV Pack ship date, again we really don’t know why.  In the e-mail statement DIRECTV is basically
implying that they are done with their part and just waiting on Microsoft.  Is this really the case?  I fully believe that Microsoft had 90% of the
software framework in-place to ship with the TV Pack.  In fact, if you look in your RTM TV Pack
registry you can find some DIRECTV bits hiding pretty well.

If DIRECTV was ready and willing to release their tuners,
why cut the project after all your initial expensive and development?  The tuners seem to be real, and if it was
Microsoft who screwed up the TV Pack you would think that DIRECTV is sitting on
a near finished product waiting for Microsoft. 
DIRECTVs enginners can jump back on a new project and leave their
efforts intack for Microsoft to start Windows 7 beta testing (which is
basically 6 months after the TV Pack release).

I’m thinking that DIRECTV might not be a clean in this whole
ordeal as some might think.

DRM, Doubtful to
Blame

Whenever there is a hold-up on a product like this the first
thing in peoeple’s mind is that Microsoft is DRMing it up and thus causing
massive delays.  Considering CableLabs
approved Windows Vista with their very strict content protection guidelines I
think it would be a huge stretch to think that Microsoft was holding up the
project in this way.  Their system
already works, and has been for two years (mostly, DRM might actually be too
protective given the bugs).

It has been suggested to me that DRM might be to blame
because DIRECTV offers service outside of the US.  I was personally expecting to see the DIRECTV
Tuner be US-only, but if it was international this would be a contract issue
between DIRECTV and their content providers.

Who needs who?

Media Center is hardly the platform it should be, and
DIRECTV might have misevaluated the commercial need of such a tuner.  It is also possible that their DIRECT2PC,
TiVo partnership, and their own Multi-room Viewing features could be playing
into things (along with the economy).

Microsoft has no leverage here.  They have a platform that hasn’t lived up to
expectations of any market and they have to be pleading with broadcaster
providers to help them save their platform.

Maybe DIRECTV has come to the conclusion that there focus
should be elsewhere.  Of course, if it
turns out that DIRECTV was not prepared to ship with the TV Pack this is a
godsend for us users.  I want a stable
platform, and with DIRECTV in charge of hardware/drivers for this they need to
have their heart in the game before I want to play.

Ben
argues that DIRECTV
only released a statement because they want to downplay
expectations about the tuner.  I don’t
follow the concept because DIRECTV has no visible reason to do any sort of
damage control.  This is where Microsoft
should have stepped in, but alas has failed to do.  When/if Microsoft makes a statement (which
they need to), it will likely be very simple and there is a good chance it will
not mention DIRECTV by name.

As far as I know, Microsoft’s framework is done for third
parties to integrate DVB-S tuners into Media Center.  What third parties (eg. DIRECTV) do at that
point is largely up to them.  The only
thing I’ve been told by Microsoft is that when two companies are involved they
can’t say anything.  NDAs are play there
just as they would be in any business partnership.

Bottom Line

I firmly believe both companies at a fault, but Microsoft
will always take the most abuse because they can’t seem to conjure up a good
Media Center release.  This is not
DIRECTVs platform falling apart before our eyes, it is Microsoft’s.

Given that I think the framework is there, we might see
other providers step up to the plate and offer solutions.  I strongly suspect others have like projects
in development, but then again so does did DIRECTV, so I guess we have to wait
for an official word at this point.

Microsoft Launches New Worldwide Platform for Broadcast TV on the PC

Leading tuner and
chipset providers announce support for new Microsoft platform.

AMSTERDAM,
Netherlands — Sept. 12, 2008
— Today at IBC2008, Microsoft Corp. announced
it has delivered in the marketplace Protected Broadcast Driver Architecture
(PBDA), Microsoft’s new worldwide platform for broadcast TV on the PC. Made
possible by the recent release of Windows Media Center TV Pack, the platform
for the first time enables the PC-TV hardware ecosystem to integrate virtually
any free or premium TV service into Windows Media Center, while satisfying the
TV industry’s requirements for strong content protection in the case of pay TV.
Among the leading companies rallying behind PBDA at the show are AVerMedia
Inc., Buffalo, Hauppauge Computer Works Inc., I-O Data Device Inc., NEC
Electronics Corp., NXP Semiconductors and ViXS Systems Inc. — all playing a
critical role in driving the forward momentum for PBDA adoption.

The PBDA platform enhances and supersedes the existing
Broadcast Driver Architecture (BDA), which has been Microsoft’s standard for
digital video capture on Windows operating systems for many years. Now, PC OEMs
and tuner-makers no longer need to rely heavily on Microsoft to specifically
enable and support the ability to output broadcast services on a one-off basis;
they can develop and ship TV tuners for Windows Media Center to target a
broader set of TV standards and markets. For broadcast service providers, the
flexibility of one consistent platform that supports multiple TV standards
specifically for protected content opens the door for more consumer options to
be made available.

“For the first time, we’re enabling those in the PC-TV
community to build tuners and integrate almost any broadcast service into
Windows Media Center themselves regardless of geographic location or television
standard — we’ve removed a major roadblock by delivering one consistent
platform for the industry,” said Geoff Robertson, general manager for Windows
Media Center at Microsoft. “The tremendous response we’re already seeing for
the platform means PC OEMs, broadcast service providers and tuner-makers can
now collaborate and embrace the PC as a first-class citizen for delivering more
high-quality free or pay content to consumers in their local markets. This is a
major milestone for us and our partners as we continue our efforts to deliver
the highest-quality, personalized TV-watching experiences available to people
everywhere.”

The momentum behind this new platform from Microsoft is
already being evidenced by the launch of PBDA-based tuner solutions in Japan,
Germany and the U.K., including Hauppauge’s first-ever Freeview-certified PC-TV
tuner solution and AVerMedia’s tuner solution for protected digital terrestrial
television in Japan.

In addition, leading chipset providers NEC Electronics, NXP
and ViXS Systems are announcing that they have all completed their
implementations of PBDA and are now ready to support their PC-TV tuner partners
in taking PBDA-based solutions to multiple markets around the world.

“We are excited to be a launch partner for Microsoft’s PBDA
platform,” said Allan Yang, Ph.D., president of AVerMedia. “PBDA has enabled us
to quickly and cost-effectively bring to market A320, a PC-TV tuner solution
for Windows Media Center that meets the Japanese broadcasting industry’s
requirements for strong content protection. The resulting system performance
delivers a surprisingly responsive user experience, and the response from our
customers, who are some of the most demanding PC OEMs in Japan, has been
phenomenal. We are looking forward to building on the very successful launch of
our PBDA-based solution beyond Japan.”

“Microsoft’s new digital TV software architecture, PBDA,
enabled Hauppauge to deliver the first-ever Freeview-certified TV tuner for
PCs,” said Ken Potkin, CEO of Hauppauge. “We look forward to 2009, when PBDA
will allow us to deliver advanced digital PC-TV tuner products, including PC
solutions for pay TV.”

“The extended capabilities, which Microsoft’s worldwide PBDA
platform for pay TV and free-to-air TV brings to Windows Media Center, mirror
NXP’s commitment to power the TV-viewing experience by enabling access to more
content with ever better picture quality anytime, anywhere, in the home and on
the go,” said Bert van de Wakker, general manager, PC Systems, NXP
Semiconductors. “Specifically, PBDA support combined with our new-generation
three-in-one PCTV SOC SAA7231 product line, enables PC OEMs to offer 30 million
European households the ability to record and view hundreds of free-to-air
digital satellite channels on their PC, complementing SAA7231DE’s established
DVB-T, analog terrestrial and cable support. In addition, PBDA has enabled us
to provide a highly integrated, secure and cost-effective solution for
protected digital terrestrial television in Japan using our secure Integrated
Services Digital Broadcasting (ISDB)-analog reception, SAA7164E SOC.”

The PBDA platform is a key component of the Windows Media
Center TV Pack, an update released to OEMs worldwide on July 16, 2008, with
targeted optimizations for Europe in particular. Some of the other features of
this update include native Windows Media Center experiences for digital
terrestrial television in Japan (based on the Integrated Services Digital
Television-Terrestrial standard), free-to-air satellites services in Europe
(based on the Digital Video Broadcasting-Satellite standard), improved guide
and playback experience, great personal video recorder auto-extend support, and
the flexibility of support for multiple TV standards.

Windows Media Center TV Pack will be demonstrated at IBC2008
at the Microsoft stand in the Topaz Lounge. Visitors to the stand will have the
opportunity to experience the latest Windows Media Center functionality
delivered in combination with some of the latest PBDA-based tuner products from
partners.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide
leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses
realize their full potential.

Microsoft and Hauppauge First to Bring Freeview-Certified PC Solution to U.K. Viewers

Windows Media Center meets requirements for Freeview
certification to deliver enhanced TV content to the PC.

READING, U.K. — Sept. 10, 2008 — Microsoft Corp., working
with tuner manufacturer Hauppauge Computer Works Inc., today announced the
launch of the first Freeview-certified, PC-based TV solution. With Windows
Media Center, found on all PCs running Windows Vista Home Premium and Windows
Vista Ultimate, and Windows Media Center TV Pack, Microsoft will now be able to
offer U.K. consumers best-in-class interactive and enhanced TV paired with some
of the best personal video recorder (PVR) features available on the market
today.

Freeview support is one of the major Digital Video
Broadcasting (DVB) enhancements of the Windows Media Center TV Pack, an update
released to OEMs worldwide on July 16, 2008, with targeted optimizations for TV
standards in Europe. Other enhancements of this update include support for
Digital Video Broadcasting-Satellite (DVB-S), improved guide and playback
experience, great PVR auto-extend support, and the flexibility of support for
multiple TV standards.

“The launch of our Freeview-enabled solution is a great
addition to Windows Media Center, allowing us to reach more users and add real
value to TV consumers and broadcasters,” said John Curran, director, Windows
Client Group, Microsoft UK. “We are dedicated to improving Windows Media Center
for customers worldwide, and this addition of Freeview as a platform and brand
will offer a real benefit to our partners and consumers. We see this as a
critical step to building awareness and setting a standard for great TV
experiences on the PC.”

Windows Media Center with Windows Media Center TV Pack was
certified as Freeview-compliant by the Digital TV Group Ltd., the industry
association for digital TV in the U.K. The certification was made in
coordination with Hauppauge, which certified its HVR 2200 tuner as part of the
same program. Together, the components offer a complete Freeview TV solution
for the PC, joining existing manufacturers of Freeview equipment such as Humax
Company Ltd., Philips, Panasonic Consumer Electronics Co., Sony Corp. and many
more.

The Windows Media Center TV Pack enhancements for the
European market, and ultimately Freeview certification, were driven out of
Microsoft’s European Development Center, established in 2005 to specifically
develop software tailored to the European market. This dedicated European team
will continue to focus on interoperability with free-to-air European digital
television as part of its commitment to European customers and DVB, the
European standards organization.

“The expansion in service of Freeview digital terrestrial TV
has created consumer demand for more advanced PC-TV solutions,” said Ken
Plotkin, CEO, Hauppauge. “Our Freeview-certified dual tuner, WinTV-HVR-2200,
provides Windows Media Center with the ability to record one Freeview digital TV
program while it displays another TV program on the PC screen.”

The Freeview logo is also a statement of the quality of
Microsoft and Hauppauge solutions. The Freeview certification effectively kicks
off a program that will enable PC OEMs and additional tuner manufacturers to
launch Freeview-branded PCs with Windows Media Center in the U.K.

Freeview is managed by DTV Services Ltd., a company owned
and run by its five shareholders — British Broadcasting Corp., BSkyB Ltd., ITV
plc and National Grid Wireless. DTV Services launched in October 2002 and
provides up to 48 free-to-air digital TV channels, up to 24 radio stations and
interactive services through an aerial. There is no subscription for the
service.

“The addition of a Freeview-enabled PC further increases and
enriches the number of ways viewers can access Freeview’s subscription-free TV
channels,” said Cheryl Sloan, Freeview’s director of strategy and new product
development. “Microsoft and Hauppauge have made a great step toward connecting
PCs in the home to the Freeview experience, allowing PC users to enjoy the
U.K.’s most popular TV platform. We look forward to collaborating with them
both to ensure its successful entry to the U.K. market.”

Windows Media Center TV Pack will be demonstrated at IBC2008,
Sept. 12–16, at the Microsoft booth in the Topaz Lounge. Visitors to the booth
will have the opportunity to experience the latest solution as well as other
elements of the product such as broadcast broadband integration.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide
leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses
realize their full potential.

Microsoft Expands TV Signal Support in Japan

A few months ago I said that Microsoft
was planning on finally taking TV signal support in Media Center global
,
but little did I know that Japan would be the first to see the improved support.  This past Friday Microsoft announced several
new broadcast and hardware partners for Media Center in Japan that will be
coming later this year.

New content providers including TV Asahi, NHK, NTV, TBS and
Fuji TV will provide interactive features new to Media Center, and Fujitsu will
bring new hardware to the market as well. 
Future support for ISDB-T, improved playback options for PCs connected
to TVs, and support for multi-language closed-captioning was also announced.

Related:
Microsoft
Quietly Plans “Windows Media Center TV Pack”

Short Bits: HD PVR, Windows 7, Media Center Show, Akimbo

Brent Evans has (almost) all your answers on the HD
PVR that finally has started shipping
. 
And remember, it doesn’t work with Media Center (yet?).

Joe Wilcox has Eight
Things About Windows 7
following Microsoft’s first public demo of the OS at
All Things D.  Overall I think Windows 7 is
going to be more like Vista Second Edition. 
It really isn’t a “whole new OS” as Vista was from XP.  Nonetheless I’m excited about it, and I hope
Microsoft is planning to make the transition away from the Vista name that has
become a horrible brand.

Ian Dixon has The
Media Center Show #158
with FUZE Media Systems.

Lastly there is a very interesting article on the downfall
of Akimbo
.  You might remember Akimbo
from the days where Media Center was their target market before things really
started to go wrong.  In 2005 I
had a number of suggestions
for Akimbo (before they
launched the Media Center plug-in
), and a number of them actually happened.