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 Gates. In 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.