Here is another person who seems to believe that Microsoft, if not the
consumers themselves, should do what is in the best interest of the
cable companies.

The reason Vista and the new Windows Media Centers include CableCard and
an ATSC receiver is that Microsoft wants to make it compatible with the
TV media used by the majority, without having to lug around a cable STB.
Two-way CableCards might be great when they arrive, but in the meantime,
the one-way variety should still satisfy the majority.

OTA usage, in total, is upwards of 30 percent of sets. Basic one-way
cable is used by 2/3 of cable subscribers (Craig's estimate). Surely,
that's a high enough total to warrant Cable Card and ATSC receivers?

Instead no. The suggestion made below is to design these Windows Media
Centers to be 100 percent dependent on umbillical media STBs for all
their TV sources. Great idea.



February 09, 2007
CableCARD, Microsoft, and HDTV
By Dennis P. Barker

A few weeks ago, I attended the launch of Microsoft's Vista, which is
the latest version of the Windows operating system. Amid much hoopla and
excessively loud music and extreme drumming, Bill Gates formally
introduced Vista to an audience of Microsoft believers. Well, almost all
of the audience was part of the Microsoft flock. Thankfully, there were
a few skeptical journalists in the crowd, and the editor of Digital TV
DesignLine was one of them. While Gates and his minions extolled the
virtues of Vista and the goal of making our Digital Lifestyle easier, it
was announced that Vista would be HD-compatible.

This is almost like an oxymoron as Microsoft was never a believer in
high-definition. Microsoft's version of HD was images at 480p, which
isn't even a resolution for high def. We now learn that Vista and new
Windows Media Centers will support HD with the inclusion of ATSC or
over-the-air HD tuners. Unfortunately, less than 10-percent of the U.S.
receives their TV signals via antenna. Close to 70-percent of TV viewers
receiver their signals via Cable. Well, we now learn that Vista and
Windows Media Centers will now support CableCARD. Sadly, Microsoft seems
to be behind the times as CableCARD in its current incarnation is not
really supported by cable companies. The cable industry doesn't like
CableCARD because it's only one-way. Cable wants to provide users with
set-top boxes with integrated DVRs, and Video-on Demand. This doesn't
leave much room in the rack for a Windows Media Center either as a PC or
as an entertainment device.

Now, Microsoft claims that it went around the country and met with the
heads of the leading cable operators such as Time-Warner, CableVision,
Cox, etc., but, I guess, Microsoft didn't hear and didn't want to hear
that CableCARD was not a favorite of the cable industry. While some
companies like CableVision do make CableCARDs available to subscribers,
it takes some prodding on the part of the end-user. The major TV
manufacturers have seen this, and many of the 2007 models of HDTVs do
not include CableCARDs any more. Yes, they do include QAM (Cable HD)
tuners, which will allow the end user to simply attach the incoming
cable signal to the television to view "in-the-clear" local network HD
signals that are offered by the local cable company.

So, it makes me wonder why is Microsoft two steps behind. Its almost
like that they had to get onto the HD bandwagon, and looked at HDTVs,
which were offered two years ago, and saw that they included CableCARDs,
and figured that they better include them. Did they even talk to TV
manufacturers in particular and the CE industry in general? I don't

Microsoft also supports HD DVD, which is sold as an accessory to its
Xbox360 game console. This is also a high definition product. Although,
it's clearer as to why Microsoft is supporting HD DVD. Microsoft does
not play well with Sony. Since Sony offers consumers their PlayStation
products that compete directly with Xbox, Microsoft has to bet a
competing horse or format. Does it matter that the HD DVD format has an
uphill batter against Blu-ray? Not in the eyes of Microsoft.

This brings me back to the question of why CableCARD, and why now? Why
can't they simply put QAM HD tuners within Windows Media Centers? And,
why can't they put HDMI (and more 1394) inputs on Windows Media Centers,
which would allow for the easy integration with Cable HD and satellite
HD set-top boxes? If anyone has a good answer, please let me know as I'm
still scratching my head.
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