website hit counter November 2005 - Posts - Chris Lanier

November 2005 - Posts

MainConcept Partners with AVerMedia on Media Center Edition Solution

MainConcept, a leading provider of codecs and video technology, announced that it has licensed its MPEG Encoder for Microsoft(R) Windows(R) Media Center Edition to AVerMedia Technologies Inc., a leading provider of digital multimedia and presentation technology. AVerMedia will implement the software codec in its MCE-certified digital home entertainment tuner cards, therefore being able to reduce their costs of this product line significantly.

The MainConcept technology enables AVerMedia to provide more cost-effective and varied products with Media Center Edition compatibility for their customers worldwide. And, as the MCE market grows, MainConcept and AVerMedia will gain a competitive advantage by already offering an affordable, feature-rich solution.

"We are honored that AVerMedia has chosen our MCE Codec technology," said Markus Moenig, founder and CEO of MainConcept. "AVerMedia is recognized as a leader in innovation and quality, and we are proud to contribute to their success."

“MainConcept has enjoyed the sound reputation of its corporate image and product quality around the world," said Dr. Allan Yang, CTO of AVerMedia. "We have great confidence in the partnership with MainConcept to deliver superior product value and high satisfaction for our customers."

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Xbox 360 Media Center Setup Guide

Xbox 360 Windows Media Center Setup Guide (TeamXbox) | “Although the process to connect your Xbox 360 to a computer is fast and easy, previously to performing that process you’ll need to install some software and configure your home network so that the necessary ports are open for both machines to communicate efficiently.”

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What's Needed For CableCARD with Media Center?

Inside DRM In Windows Vista Set-Top Boxes (ExtremeDRM) | CableLabs, the technical arm of the cable television industry, and Microsoft recently announced that the CableCARD will soon be a part of future Media Center PCs. This is considered an important move for Microsoft and those hoping to position the PC as the center of the home entertainment experience.

 

CableCARD Primer

 

So what is a CableCARD and why is it relevant? Simply stated, the CableCARD slips into some newer televisions and enables the TV to pick up digital cable service without the use of a set top box (STB). The current CableCARD standard only supports "one-way" services, so "two-way" services such as Video on Demand (VOD) and interactive program guides (IPG) are not supported. The industry remains months away from settling on two-way protocols.

 

Because of the Microsoft/CableLabs agreement, CableCARDs can now be used with appropriately equipped PC systems to enable consumers to view digital cable TV services on their home PC.

 

The Politics Behind the Agreement

 

The reason that it has taken so long for Microsoft and CableLabs to come to agreement is that the cable industry simply did not believe that Media Center PC's were trustworthy when it came to protecting video content. The PC is a relatively open system, one which is easily "accessorized" by new peripherals and software. Once DVD's Content Scrambling System was cracked, the entire cable industry became very nervous about opening up their content to manipulation by PCs.

 

Microsoft was told to come up with a software and hardware solution that would sufficiently protect video content against piracy and unauthorized duplication. But Microsoft was concerned that such a solution would make the consumer video viewing experience rather cumbersome and unfriendly, thus being antithetical to its larger goal of pushing consumers to view video on their PCs.

 

The Specifics of the Agreement

 

In an attempt to balance these two tensions, Microsoft came up with the Protected Video Path - Output Protection Management (PVP-OPM) and Protected Video Path - User-Accessible Bus (PVP-UAB), a solution designed to ensure that the system is compliant with CableLabs' specifications and which encrypts video as it passes through the Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe) bus. These new mechanisms are part of Vista, the next release of Windows.

 

A CableLabs' compliant system must also use High-bandwidth Digital Copy Protection (HDCP) video outputs for connecting to the monitor. HDCP, and its cousin the High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI), are both digital video interfaces that can encrypt the video signal of protected content.

 

The Implications of This Announcement

 

While some consumers will enjoy having digital cable content available through their Media Center PC, others will be disappointed by the rest of the package.

 

First, in order to take advantage of high-definition programming, both older monitors and new Digital Video Interface (DVI) models will not work as they may have expected. When a protected High Definition Television (HDTV) program passes through the new Media Center PC, the PVP-OPM system will check to see if HDCP or HDMI is supported. If so, all is fine. If not, the video's resolution is reduced from HDTV levels to something equivalent to ordinary DVD levels. So if you have an ordinary analog or DVI monitor, no matter how great its resolution, your HDTV channel will look much fuzzier than you expected. In the industry, this is sometimes called "down-rez'ing".

 

Meantime, the classic STB continues to gain in sophistication, and it is capable of full two-way services now.

 

Second, there is no guarantee that the first-generation of CableCARD-enabled Media Center PCs will support two-way interactive video services such as VOD and EPGs. Of course, Microsoft hopes such an agreement will be in place by the time Vista comes out (just before the 2006 holiday season). If not, consumers may have to settle for one-way systems until upgrades are available.

 

Third, there is a "thorn" in two-way cable that may be giving Microsoft reason for concern. CableLabs has settled on something called the Open Cable Application Platform (OCAP) for supporting Java applets that can be downloaded into the host device. OCAP is based on a European specification called Multimedia Home Platform (MHP), and it was not developed by Microsoft.

 

As well, Microsoft is very busy working on Internet Protocol Television (IPTV), with the first major U.S. deployment by SBC scheduled for around January 2006. Microsoft's IPTV vision runs somewhat in competition to CableLabs' OCAP. Therefore, it remains to be seen how completely Microsoft will support OCAP in a two-way CableCARD-capable Media Center PC.

 

The road to two-way CableCARD-enabled PCs is more complex than it may appear, clouded by not only Microsoft's own long-term interests, but the interests of the cable companies as well. While it may be surprising to many readers, cable's support for the CableCARD is only a stepping stone towards a grander vision. Ultimately, they hope the CableCARD will go away altogether, replaced with downloadable security, a move that will make things even more interesting.

Intel Viiv to Enable Broad On-Demand Entertainment Choice Accessible from Living Room

As part of its forthcoming Intel Viiv technology PC platform, Intel Corporation is enabling a broad choice of on-demand, Internet-delivered digital entertainment along with several options for how families view, manage and share content – options that range from a “10-foot” living room TV viewing experience in the home to laptops or handheld devices for on the go.

Intel today said it is working with a wide variety of movie, music, television, gaming and photo editing companies worldwide and announced that more than 40 are already testing and verifying services and software applications to meet this objective.

Intel Viiv technology, expected to be available in the first quarter of 2006, is designed to enhance and help manage the enjoyment of digital entertainment in the home. Throughout next year, the number of verified content services and applications available will grow to include such verified consumer devices and networked media devices as portable media players, digital media adapters, digital TVs, DVD players and routers.

“The immediacy, global reach and on-demand nature of the Internet, together with the 10s of millions of broadband-ready PCs that already exist today worldwide, support a new trend in how people get their entertainment,” said Kevin Corbett, vice president and general manager, Content Services Group, Intel Digital Home Group. “Intel intends to accelerate this trend through our strong relationships with leaders in digital entertainment. This is about Intel Viiv technology-based PCs not only connecting to the TV, but also delivering the latest movies at home, creating ‘music DJs,’ playing games and showcasing home photos and videos – it’s a ‘one-stop-shop’ for entertainment.”

Intel is providing the engineering support, specifications and verification tools to content owners, content distributors, portals, software application developers and device vendors to help deliver Internet–based content services and software applications that are tested and verified to work with an Intel Viiv technology-based PC. The verified content services and applications will be capable of being accessed in full screen format with simple access using a remote control.

Intel is also working with these providers to offer download of their content to portable media devices, such as those from Creative and Dell that will also be verified to work with an Intel Viiv technology-based PC. To make it easier for consumers to find the verified content and devices, each service, application and device will carry an identifier that reads, “Enjoy with Intel Viiv technology.”

In the second half of 2006, personal and premium content services, applications and devices will also work with software from Intel that enables content to be shared across a home network to Intel Viiv technology verified devices.

Global, On-Demand Entertainment on Intel Viiv Technology-based PCs
The content services and applications announced today will be available in many locations around the world. These include services that deliver content directly to consumers, as well as solutions that will help software providers bring Intel Viiv technology verified content to market faster. Intel is working with some of these companies to make promotional offers and content available to Intel Viiv technology-based PC owners next year. The content categories that Intel is enabling for Intel Viiv technology include:

Movies, Video, TV: Rent and download hundreds to thousands of major motion picture and independent movies via subscription-based, pay-per-view or free video-on-demand services. Select from hundreds of movies to purchase and download. Choose from a variety of TV programs for viewing on an Intel Viiv technology-based PC and receive the latest sports news on demand or view short clips and replays of the winning goal or putt. Intel is working with such companies as Afendis AG, arvato mobile, Bellrock Media Japan Inc., British Sky Broadcasting, Broadband Tower, Inc., Canal + Group, Glowria, Gretech Corp., LoveFilm.com, MEDION AG, Movielink, NEC, Sohu.com, Telecom Italia, Tiantian Online Inc., TiscaliS.p.A., TiVo, T-Online International, Usen Corp., webs-tv Digital International Co. to enable and bring these types of movie, video and TV applications and online services to Intel Viiv technology-based PCs.

Music: Purchase the latest hits or subscribe to services to download and enjoy thousands of music tracks in your home or on a portable media device. Access streaming music videos on demand or view live concerts as they take place around the world. Intel is working with companies worldwide, including Afendis AG, arvato mobile, Avex Network Inc., Gretech Corp., Loudeye, MEDION AG, Napster, Oricon Inc., SK Telecom, Skysoft Co. Ltd., Telecom Italia, Tiantian Online Inc., and VirginMega to enable and bring these types of music applications and online services to Intel Viiv technology-based PCs.

Games: Play a purchased premier title game, including several number one titles in a variety of local markets, online with other players or play a Web-based game alone. Sample subscription-based and free gaming services that allow for multiple downloads for family and friend involvement. Consumers could also bring the arcade into the living room and access hundreds of games on demand to play online. These types of gaming applications and services will be available, accessible or enabled on Intel Viiv technology-based PCs by such companies as arvato mobile, CAPCOM, CCR Inc., DISCover’s My Games, Exent Technologies, Metaboli, NHN, Ourgame, Square Enix Co., Telecom Italia, The 9 Limited, TWP Corp., and Ubisoft.

Photos: Use photo editing software to organize, edit and share personal photos in a slideshow format on the TV screen in the living room. Add music to turn it into a memorable home movie or send it to portable media devices or burn it to a CD for family and friend sharing. Consumers can store, view, share and print photos online via online photo services. They can also create personalized home videos that are edited on the desktop PC in the home office but that can be viewed in the living room while sitting on the couch. Intel is working with such companies as Adobe, arvato mobile, CyberLink Corp., muvee Technologies, Pinnacle, Ulead Systems, and Sonic Solutions to bring these types of applications and services to Intel Viiv technology-based PCs.

Through its research examining how people interact with technology in the home, Intel continues to engage with consumers to understand the desire to personalize their entertainment experience. Together with the above-mentioned entertainment companies, Intel is enabling the delivery of a broad portfolio of Internet-based services and applications for Intel Viiv Technology-based PCs.

Intel, the world's largest chip maker, is also a leading manufacturer of computer, networking and communications products. Additional information about Intel is available at www.intel.com.

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First Looks at Windows Vista Media Center

First Looks at Windows Vista Media Center (ExtremeTech) | “Today, we take a look at some of these changes, from Windows Vista beta build 5231. This is an early beta (technically still Beta 1) and Vista is still a year from release, but we can already see some significant changes. If you're an MCE user, and even if you're not, you may be fascinated to learn where Microsoft is taking the interface.”

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Two Thumbs Up For pcalchemy.com

While at home for the holidays, I’m setting up a new Media Center PC for my parents.  I needed a PVR-500 to get them started and ordered one from pcalchemy.com for $139.95, it was charged and shipped right away.  It got here yesterday and it works perfectly.  Two thumb up for pcalchemy.com!

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LG Electronics Announces U.S. Availability of LG LRM-519 Digital Media Recorder

The world's first dedicated "digital media recorder" with the Microsoft Program Guide service is now available at leading consumer electronics retailers nationwide, LG Electronics announced today. The LG LRM-519 Digital Media Recorder is a combination digital video recorder (DVR) and DVD recorder powered by Windows Media Center Technologies with a 160-gigabyte hard drive for unparalleled recording flexibility.

Creating a new industry product category and taking home theater digital convergence to the next level, the LG LRM-519 has a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $599.95. The Microsoft Program Guide service is available through three subscription options: a one-month subscription for $9.99, a one-year subscription for $99.99 or a one-time subscription for $249. Subscription cards are available for purchase from retailers wherever the LRM- 519 is sold; monthly and one-time subscriptions can be purchased and activated on-line at www.microsoftprogramguide.com

Supporting the product launch is an exciting consumer promotion that LG is offering in conjunction with Microsoft. Consumers who sign up for a One-Time Microsoft Program Guide service subscription by March 1, 2006 are eligible for a $100 rebate from Microsoft, bringing the price of the subscription to half of major competitive offerings. Consumers who choose to pay monthly can save $36 a year compared with competitive offerings.

For home theater enthusiasts who aren't always at home when their favorite TV program airs, the LRM-519 can record and store cable, satellite or over- the-air programs for enjoyment anytime. In addition, the LG Digital Media Recorder's two USB ports make it easy to plug in a compatible external hard drive of any size to instantly expand storage capacity to however many hours the customer desires.

The Microsoft Program Guide service makes it easy to search up to 14 days of programs by title, keyword or category; allowing new programs and old favorites to be discovered and automatically recorded at the touch of a button. Any scheduled recording can be configured to record only once or for an entire season of shows, making it easy for users to decide exactly what will be recorded. The Microsoft Program Guide also provides the engine for the "parental controls" features that allow parents to monitor the programs their families can access.

The LG LRM-519 can pause "live" TV up to 90 minutes, stopping to take a TV break or going back to review an earlier scene or program is no problem. And for those less-interesting TV moments, one press of the remote control's skip button automatically jumps forward 30 seconds in time.

Of course, even home theater enthusiasts sometimes need to leave the living room. For those times, the LRM-519's ability to quickly save stored programs to DVD will allow TV shows to be played back on the go, wherever there is a DVD player.

With support for the widest variety of major DVD recording formats, including the latest DVD+R Dual Layer recordable discs, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R and DVD+RW, DVD recording and playback compatibility are not a concern.

In addition, the LG LRM-519 Digital Media Recorder can be easily added to the home network via wired Ethernet or an 802.11a/b/g wireless connection. Using a high-speed connection through the home network or even through a standard analog telephone modem connection, access to the Microsoft Program Guide service data is fast and easy.

With a connection to the home network, TV shows can quickly be sent to the home office for viewing or archiving on a PC running Windows XP or Windows XP Media Center Edition. Further, JPEG photo files, MP3 and WMA music files stored on the PC -- or even on a variety of portable devices such as portable digital music players, digital cameras and USB thumb drives that had previously been confined to the PC's small screen and tiny speakers -- can now be accessed through the LRM-519 for slideshow playback and enjoyment by the whole family in the home theater environment.

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The Media Center Show #34

The Media Center Show #34 | 24th November 2005 (56mins 25secs) MP3 - 19.4MB (Download Here)

 

This week Ian Dixon talked with Todd Bowra, Program Manager at Microsoft on the Xbox 360 Extender functions. They talked about the XBOX 360 extender function what is does and doesn’t do, the best way to hook it up to your Media Center PC and Todd’s favorite games.  In addition, news with Orb Networks and on the Media Center Awards, the vote page is up so get voting!

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Xbox 360 Launches

XBOX MANIA! | Thomas Hawk has a nice collection of this past weeks Xbox 360 launch!

 

The Xbox 360 in Videos | Jason Dunn has a series of videos of the new Xbox 360 posted too!

 

"Yesterday I [Jason Dunn] took a series of video clips with my Casio S500 digital camera showing various aspects of the Xbox 360, mostly focused on it's capabilities as a digital media playback device and a Media Center Extender for my MCE 2005 PC. The videos are all 640 x 480, and 30fps, so they're on the large side and will take a bit to download. They should play in Windows Media Player 10 on the PC without any extra codecs. They're also a bit rough around the edges since I didn't have a tripod and didn't edit them, but I think you'll find them interesting because they show the Xbox 360 in a very real-world environment. Please note that this is a Core system running over composite cables, so it's not in high-definition (boo! hiss!). "

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Ricavision International Launches Internal IR Receiver

Ricavision International Launches Internal IR Receiver | Ricavision International has launched an internal IR Receiver for Media Center.  Any System Builders out there should check it out!

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Windows Media Format 9.5 SDK x64

Windows Media Format 9.5 Software Development Kit (SDK) | The Microsoft Windows Software Development Kit (SDK) provides the documentation, samples, header files, libraries, and tools you need to develop applications that run on Windows. The applications you develop with this edition of the SDK can run on the x64 based versions of Windows Server 2003 SP and Windows XP x64 Pro Edition.

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Media Center Boot Camp a Success!

Nathan Hufford had the following comments on the Media Center Boot Camp that CE Pro held at EHX…

 

“It was a great time and opened the eyes of both IT and CE professionals as well as newcomers and old timers to this technology and what is now possible. The room consisted of about Half IT and Half CE. This is saying something coming from a show that is normally predominantly CE. So at the end of it all I asked around for their thoughts. Most people felt that it was not a matter of will they or won't they use media center systems in their installations, but more the case that this is the direction things are going. Media Center made a stand. Computer Based systems are here. Will it replace the standards.... not yet. But it is here. It was definitely a great full day event.”

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Xbox 360 Media Download Center Available for Download

Xbox 360 Media Download Center | To connect the Xbox 360 console to this computer, you must have either Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, Update Rollup 2 for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 or Windows XP Service Pack 2.

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Windows Media Encoder x64 Edition Released

Windows Media Encoder 9 Series x64 Edition | Windows Media Encoder 9 Series x64 Edition is a powerful tool for content producers who want to take advantage of the many innovations in Windows Media 9 Series including high-quality multichannel sound and high-definition video quality on x64 platforms.

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The Media Center Show #33

The Media Center Show #33 | 16th November 2005 (1 hour 6mins 22secs) MP3 - 28.6MB (Download Here)

 

This week Ian Dixon talked with Michael Creasy, Media Center developer and tester at Microsoft about Media Center development and an answering your questions.  Also, news on the Media Center Awards, the vote page is up so get voting!

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DRM Update for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 (KB910393)

KB910393 Update for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 | Microsoft has released KB910393 Update. This update is intended for systems running Update Rollup 2 for Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005.

Install this update to prevent Windows Media Player 10 setup from overwriting digital rights management (DRM) files installed by Update Rollup 2 for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 (KB900325).

For more information about this update, read Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 910393. (This site may be in English.)

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Xbox 360 Digital Output for Secure Content Protection?

Microsoft and CableLabs Announce Agreement to Enable HD Digital Cable Programming on Windows-Based PCs

 

Quote: “…will allow consumers to enjoy one-way cable programming, including premium high-definition cable content, on their personal computer and throughout the home on compliant network-connected devices, such as Xbox 360, while protecting cable operators’ investments in high-value content in a digital environment.”

 

Quote: “Microsoft is working closely with CableLabs to document final approval of Windows Media Digital Rights Management (DRM)…”

 

I’ve said before that WMRM would be used to allow content to flow to the Xbox 360 and be protected, but the question still remains: What about secure output?  Are we to assume now that Microsoft has the ability to add a digital output (DVI/HDCP/HDMI) to the Xbox 360 via a new dongle?  The content isn’t “protected” if the output is analog (S-Video, Composite, Component, VGA) which is the only outputs known on the current Xbox 360 dongle.

 

If we get a digital output, that makes the Xbox 360 part of Why Microsoft is Still My Choice to Win Your Living Room (June 2, 2005)

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Does Bi-directional CableCARD Matter?

Some people have been disappointed about Microsoft’s CableCARD announcement only applying to Uni-directional CableCARDs and not Bi-directional CableCARDs.  The main differences between the two are that Bi-directional CableCARD adds…

 

  • Interactive Program Guide
  • Pay Per View
  • Video On Demand
  • SDV

Well, a Program Guide is already provided within Media Center, so you can scratch that from being a lost feature.  Even if CableCARDs should provide a Program Guide, Media Center would still provide its own EPG to allow for more advanced features (Ex. Movie Finder). Pay Per View functionality is lacking in current Media Center solutions, so you don’t lose anything over current analog solutions.  It would have been nice to see, however not groundbreaking  Video On Demand solutions (along with “Pay Per View” models) will be turning to web-based solutions as more and more content providers are starting to try out this model.  I don’t think it’s a huge deal for consumer value that Video On Demand and Pay Per View will not be supported.  I expect to see more Video On Demand services appearing within Media Center's Online Spotlight by the time Media Center's CableCARD support appears.


Note: This article is outdated and doesn't reflect the fact that SDV does need bidirectional (two-way) communication.  When first written, SDV was not as big of a deal.  Currently (2007) is has changed and bidirectional communications are needed to ensure cable compatibility.

Microsoft and CableLabs Announce Agreement to Enable HD Digital Cable Programming on Windows-Based PCs

Microsoft and CableLabs Announce Agreement to Enable High-Definition Digital Cable Programming on Windows-Based PCs | Microsoft Corp. and Cable Television Laboratories Inc. (CableLabs®) today announced they have reached an agreement that will allow Microsoft and PC manufacturers to bring to market digital-cable-ready Windows® Media Center-based PCs in the holiday 2006 time frame.

 

These Media Center PCs, capable of supporting a CableCARD™ module, will allow consumers to enjoy one-way cable programming, including premium high-definition cable content, on their personal computer and throughout the home on compliant network-connected devices, such as Xbox 360™, while protecting cable operators’ investments in high-value content in a digital environment. Microsoft is working closely with CableLabs to document final approval of Windows Media® Digital Rights Management (DRM) as a content protection technology for OpenCable™ products that receive one-way cable content under the terms of this 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.

 

“The cable industry is very interested in having the PC serve as another means to allow consumers to enjoy cable programming,” said Richard R. Green, president and CEO of CableLabs. “By working with Microsoft and the IT industry, we have come up with a solution to enable consumers to enjoy the wide range of entertainment options they want.”

 

“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,” said Glenn Britt, chairman of CableLabs and chairman and CEO of Time Warner Cable.

 

The agreement is the culmination of more than two years of extensive evaluation and technical reviews performed by the two entities under the CableLabs OpenCable process to develop specifications and test suites for the new solution.

 

The specified OpenCable architecture allows for multiple DRM systems to be used in the device and ensures content providers of protected delivery of content to the PC. Microsoft® Windows Media Digital Rights Management is the first major DRM system to complete the due diligence necessary for approval by CableLabs.

 

The OpenCable project will continue to play an important role as the new agreement moves forward, allowing the cable industry to work closely with the consumer electronics and IT industries to innovate rapidly on the new specifications developed by Microsoft and CableLabs.

 

CableLabs will host interoperability events to enable vendors working on products based on these specifications to test products in CableLabs facilities and conduct more formalized certification testing. More information about the OpenCable project is available at http://www.opencable.com.

 

Media Center PCs deliver advanced computing and easy-to-use integrated digital entertainment experiences. To date, Microsoft has sold more than 4 million Windows XP Media Center Edition licenses, and more than 130 PC manufacturers are offering Media Center PCs around the world. The cable industry supports more than 370 models of digital televisions manufactured by 22 companies that display one-way cable content via CableCARDs.

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Multiroom A/V Market Maturing: Media Center Based-Solutions

Multiroom A/V Market Maturing Fast (CE Pro) | EHX is apparently full-on with Multiroom Audio/Video solutions, many centering around Media Center.  In light of this, the editors at CE Pro “will be writing a number of product reviews and news stories that focus on MCE and hard drive-based multiroom A/V.” Watch for reviews and more information on the products!

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