Microsoft, CableLabs Team Up for CableCARD Compatibility

November 22, 2005
Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition (MCE) allows owners of compatible PCs to easily view and record both analog cable TV broadcasts and analog and digital off-air TV broadcasts and to distribute this content over their networks. However, digital cable subscribers could not use their MCE PC to view or record digital cable content.

That should change by the end of next year, thanks to an agreement reached last week between Cable Television Laboratories Inc. (CableLabs) and Microsoft that will allow Microsoft and PC manufacturers to offer digital-cable-ready Windows Media Center-based PCs in time for 2006 holiday purchases. Microsoft is working closely with CableLabs to document final approval of Windows Media Digital Rights Management as a content protection technology for OpenCable products that receive one-way cable content under the terms of the agreement.

"This agreement is an important milestone for our customers who want access to high-definition digital cable content on their PCs and a major step toward enabling a solution for the delivery of that content," said Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of the Windows eHome Division at Microsoft. CableLabs president and CEO Richard Green said that the cable industry has been interested in allowing customers to view cable programming via their PCs and with the new developments, this is now possible.

Glenn Britt, the chairman and CEO of Time Warner Cable and also chairman of CableLabs said, "This agreement carefully balances the need to preserve the flexibility of the personal computer for consumers with the need for cable operators to be confident that the hardware and software shipped with compliant Media Center PCs will function like a CableCARD-enabled digital television."

The content protection issues are complex. This agreement was preceded by more than two years of extensive evaluation and technical review under the CableLabs OpenCable process to develop specifications and test suites. Cable companies have been criticized by the Consumer Electronics Association for not making CableCARDs more readily available to consumers, even though the cable industry supports more than 370 models of DTV sets in displaying one-way cable content via CableCARDs.

More information is available in the CableLabs press release.

Receive regular news and technology updates.
Sign up for our free newsletter here.