CableCard support in Vista to require certified PC


Staff member
Microsoft will be supporting CableCARD in the upcoming Windows Vista Media Center Edition, but it looks like there is a catch. CableLabs, the company behind the technology, will not allow people to build their own machines with CableCARD support. There will be a certification process for OEM's, and these are the only machines which will be able to support CableCARD through Windows Vista Media Center Edition.

So if you were planning on upgrading your existing MCE 2005 machine just so you would have CableCARD, or were planning on building your own MCE Vista machine in the near future, you might want to think again.
Although as a platform Vista has been approved by CableLabs at this point, an important step that will still be necessary for the PC/CableCARD reality is CableLab's approval for finshed individual OEM PCs as well. Although Vista has been approved, OEMs will in fact still need to get their individual machines certified by CableLabs as well. Central to this certification according to Jim is the idea of a "protective path."

Getting something approved through CableLabs is no easy task and this will very much favor the larger OEMs who have the funds, resources and clout to get this done. Jim said to expect to see the CableLabs approved PCs out from the big guys first but reiterated his commitment to smaller OEMs in fighting for them to also get their machines CableLabs approved as well. Jim said that Microsoft would fight clawing and scratching for these smaller OEMs. It will be interesting to see between now and Fall what that will mean. What it means for you as a consumer though is definitely do *not* think that you can just buy any old Media Center PC today and then upgrade it for CableCARD support in the Fall when Vista ships. The entire PC will need to be certified and this is what I'm waiting for before I buy mine. I'll probably buy a high powered Dell when they have one out and would expect as a large OEM that they would have one of the first CableLabs approved PCs to market.
While clearly cablecard allows you to not need a cable box, is the assumption that this can do HD as well (it seems implied, but I'm sure many want that to never happen)? Otherwise I don't see a benefit (aside from reduced hardware space/requirements).

Even if they do this, I don't see what this buys them, other than allowing a handful of companies to integrate them. If you buy one, couldn't you then take the hardware out and use it as needed? (expensive proposition, but I don't see a reason why it would not work) Drivers still need to be supported, and I can't see them providing exceptional security services or anything like that.
The main goal of CableCARD v1 is to allow reception of digital (and HD) channels with a CableCARD compatible device. V2 is supposed to support interactive channels, such as the on demand channels.

This is a pretty big disappointment, since it will only force more people to download their favorite TV shows in HD from online sources.
What surprises me is the HD part. I thought the industry was against this as they can't currently manage the content securely, and with HD you have 'perfect' copies floating around.

Progress nonetheless, although it is dissappointing that they are creating some new class of peripheral that is only able to be bought/installed by a select few companies.
It will only stop the people who pay for cable. There will always be people who have means of recording it anyways, and will post it online to share, commercial free. You won't be able to copy your CableCARD HD recording to any other machine either (judging by that interview).
It will only stop the people who pay for cable. There will always be people who have means of recording it anyways, and will post it online to share, commercial free. You won't be able to copy your CableCARD HD recording to any other machine either (judging by that interview).

What an integrated cable card buys you is one electronic item - instead of STB + MC EPC, all you will need is the MCE PC. DRM will be a major component of Vista - for example HDMI/HDCP support. For example, from what I've been able to piece together, if you record HDTV, but want to put it out over a non-DRM secure video output (say, component), the resultant output will be downgrade to SDTV.


I just read this ... so it appears that we should be able to upgrade our computers to Vista+MCE+Cablecard - see:

That said, it still might be better to go with a Viiv (dual-core). But at least we'll be able to build our own.

That latest statement is interesting but confusing. It says it's part of a kit, which includes a new PC, so you would still need to buy a new PC, right?
The way that I understand it, companies like ATI would provide a kit, that you would could install. I suspect it would be a card+software.

The main disappointment is that we all expected digital media to enhance our ability to use content (within fair use guidelines). However, as I have learned with buying music online, it actually reduces your ability to use it.
it seems to me that all these guys are doing is effectively removing themselves from the market. it's a very apple-esque move. If i'm dead set on building my own box, I'm going to find a comparable product and use that one instead. No doubt they have a good product, but if they are going to restrict use, I'm not going to buy it.