Why HDTV Support in MCE Won’t Change Until Longhorn Arrives

A hot topic after the release of Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 was when Microsoft would improve HDTV support (Technically it’s still a hot topic).  MCE 2005 brought us OTA HD, but that’s not enough for some people.  We want full Cable/Satellite HDTV support inside of Media Center.  We know that Media Center will support CableCARD’s at some point, you can hear that directly from Bill Gates in The Engadget Interview with GatesIn fact, Gates sounded kind of dumbfounded when asked about CableCARD and Media Center.  CableCARD’s are seen as the way to bring premium content into our PC’s.


Here is the problem that everyone is not thinking of.  Part of the reason Media Center doesn’t support anything more than OTA is mainly because of the rights management issues.  Sure, the hardware support isn’t currently shipped, but I don’t see that as the big holdup.  Media Center is not the “closed box” that Hollywood what’s it to be.  The only reason we can purchase a TiVo or other CE device that will record premium content is because it appears to the industry as a “closed box”.  It’s too easy for them to say that Media Center is highly contributing to piracy of TV and films on the Internet because of the PC’s open architecture.  Microsoft must make changes to Media Center, and the underlying Operating System that is Windows XP, to be a “closed box” when it comes to recording and viewing digital content.  Not only does Microsoft have to build this secure system, they have to do it quickly so not to risk Media Center as a failed product.  The public isn’t going to live forever on NTSC and OTA ATSC.


You might be asking what the solution to all of this is, and here is were some Media Center users and hopeful future Media Center owners might not be that happy.  I don’t see Windows XP as a system that will ever be the “closed box” it needs to be.  As I see it, Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 will not be seeing anything but OTA HDTV support.


The solution to this problem of the “closed box” is already being developed, but I don’t think it’s going to fall into place until the Longhorn timeframe.  I’m talking about a developing technology called PVP-OPM (Protected Video Path – Output Protection Management).  Currently due to be shipping with Windows Longhorn, this is the technology that will enable all sorts of premium content to come inside our PC’s.


PVP-OPM is the overall key to enabling all sorts of premium content to some inside our Media Center PC’s.  This doesn’t stop with Media Center through, want to pick up a Blu-Ray/HD-DVD** title and play it back in your PC?  It’s likely not going to happen without PVP-OPM.  The idea behind PVP-OPM is simple, in theory.  It’s going to work on a checks-and-balance type of system, but your hardware is going to play the big part in this equation.  Drivers check hardware, Windows checks drivers, and so on.  If a single part of the process reports back as failed, you don’t play the content.  Plain and simple.


While we all want premium content with our Media Center PC’s,  I don’t see this happening until Longhorn ships.


** CyberLink Supports Microsoft’s Certified Output Protection Protocol (COPP) for DVI-HDCP Transmission.  No direct mention of AACS or anything, but it does state copy-protected Blu-Ray/HD-DVD.  The Press Release is just a few days old, most would assume that would fall into the pre-Longhorn (eg XP) timeframe.  COPP is in place currently in Windows XP Service Pack 2 and Server 2003 SP1, IIRC.

15 thoughts on “Why HDTV Support in MCE Won’t Change Until Longhorn Arrives

  1. Yeah this is the reason I think IPTV with the extender acting as a tuner will be the next logical step for HD support. Provider is in control of the content, but you can still watch it seemlessly with mce setup.

  2. Guns don’t kill, people do. The copyright owners need to aggressively prosecute infringers and stop trying to control the technology.

    I think the single biggest problem with the many DRM schemes may be that they have no way of knowing anything about the "fair use" provisions of copyright law.

    Microsoft is used to fighting lawsuits 🙂 They should use MCE to be strong consumer advocate for new technology, even if that means picking a fight with the RIAA and MPAA.

  3. New day, new DRM

    When will they get a clue?

    These digital restrictions do nothing but turn their products into useless piles of crap and alienate their customers.

    Just like this Human Proof garbage.

  4. If this is true, Microsoft just fell into last place in the race for control of the living room. Cable Companies, DirecTV and TIVO will all have have HD home media center devices that play premium content HDTV in the hands of customers early in 2006. If MCE has to wait for Longhorn, the race is over before it even begun.

  5. > Here is the problem that everyone is not thinking of. Part

    > of the reason Media Center doesn’t support anything more

    > than OTA is mainly because of the rights management

    > issues.

    Everyone already knows this. Content companies want all content locked down into closed, encrypted pathways. Microsoft, neither an aggressive innovator nor a backer of fair use rights despite its status as an 800lb. gorilla, has chosen complete passivity and compliance. That’s why Microsoft has already lost any chance to take control of the livingroom–the technologies which are ultimately successful are all initially disruptive technologies which violate the content industry’s wishes on inception–the printing press, the phonograph, the TV, the VCR, the TiVo/DVR; all were shunned by mainstream content producers in the beginning and heralded as vehicles for theft and the destruction of the writing, then music, and then film, and then TV industries.

    In the end, disruptive technologies always win, the content industry always grows because consumption increases dramatically even as cost per unit falls. And he who cow-tows to the status quo loses in the end.

  6. There is the small chance that COPP (Certified Output Protection Protocol) could be used, it’s already inplace in Windows XP SP2. It would protect the output to an external display using DVI-HDCP. That’s the only hope to see it in an XP timeframe, but that leaves many gaps in the chain that would not be protected. I’m not sure if that would be enough to get it all to work. It’s far from the "closed box".

    We can hope that COPP would work and can be used, but I’m not holding my breath.

  7. MCE 2005 even is not able to play all the official wmv-hd samples. I think the clips with drm activated are causing the stutter. (not so in mediaplayer – without mce running) sad is, that there is no way to tell ms or even to get ANY support as a dealer from microsoft for MCE 2005. funny is, that customers who bought a mce 2005 pc only to playback hd stuff suddenly accept the fact that not all is running as it should… imagine I would sell cars and the break doesn’t work!


  8. I believe that CableCard is going to be delayed as much as possible by the cable providers. Why help something along that ultimately causes them to lose control? The cable companies will say that technical reasons, incompatibility, lack of standards, etc, etc is forcing them to delay CableCard to 2012. So even if Microsoft wanted to support it, I have concluded that the content providers are in control here and they have every incentive to remain in control and sell their own PVRs and leave it a closed solution.

    What I wonder, is what would it take to have the DVI output from today’s HD cable box be captured by a DVI-Input board and encoded?


  9. Sergei-

    I believe your premise is flawed. The TV and the Phonograph were heralded as platforms for theft? While some of those other mediums might have been seen as threatening other media, I don’t think that is the issue with digitally distributed media. i believe the big content producers are dying to sell us their content in digital form, as long as they can make a profit. What’s more, you left out a glaring counter-example to your "disruptive" technology theory. The most popular consumer product in history was the DVD player — a media technology in which DRM was integral (if poorly implemented).

    Microsoft isn’t stupid, they see that DRM is the future. They know that content is their lifeblood and without it their platform is screwed. Why do you think that they bend over backwards to maintain compatibility with Windows apps? Apps are the content that an OS runs, and without that, you’ve got nothing. If OS X could run all the apps that Windows can run, you think they’d have a <5% market share?

    I probably agree that content companies are excessively greedy when it comes to digital content. After all, you can’t crow about the dangers associated with being able to make infinite copies of content at no cost, then charge the same for a digital album as for a physical CD. However, copyrights are about striking a balance between the free exchange of ideas and content producers being able to make enough money to produce more content. Some type of working DRM is going to be integral to this ideal in the digital world.

  10. It’s hard to say, doing that would be very unMicrosoft like of them. IMHO they should of allowed one of the MS MCE Bloggers to make a posting about Media Center and CableCARD by now. Whether it be that they are planning on supporting it this year, or that they are not.

    The biggest mistake on Microsoft’s part was most likely the Engadget Interview with Gates. Until then CableCARD support has just been rumors based on a PC at CES that had a CableCARD slot. The community made the biggest deal about, and rightfully so. It’s a big feature that would (or will) drive Media Center into more homes.

    With Gates saying "Oh, will we get CableCARD support in Media Center, that’s the whole idea…." it added more community speculation that we would be seeing support ASAP. It’s now looking like that less and less true.



  11. It seems to me that most of Hollywood’s concerns about DRM would be satisfied if the decryption takes place in hardware on the graphics card, rather than in the tuner card or CPU.

  12. 1. Someone will hack the DRM, just as in the past, making the millions in dollars spent creating it a waste.

    2. You’ll never stop users from taking an output from a digital device (Audio, Video, whatever) into a capture device and copying the data that way. You can put all the DRM in the world into a CD, but I can play it out a nice CD player and capture it on my PC just fine. It’s digital, how much quality could I lose? They’ll never be able to restrict that content, they won’t be able to justify DRM for personal captures, that would then apply to your own home movies, etc.

    RIAA and MPAA need to give it up, cut their losses, and depend on the publics laziness and lack of knowledge when it comes to copying material. Make it just hard enough so people have to work for it. For them that’s probably the smart business decision, it has the greatest profit potential when you factor time and money wasted on this DRM crap that never works and/or gets them sued (ex: Sony). I suppose this is a waste though, you can’t reason well with the ignorant. Maybe someone with MPAA or RIAA will have a grand epiphany and realize how stupid this all is.

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