Media Center PCs to Support HD Cable

Microsoft announced Wednesday that it had reached an agreement that would make high-definition Media Center PCs a reality by around the time Windows Vista is slated to ship in the holiday 2006 timeframe.

Users of Windows Media Center Edition with a CableCARD module would be able to view digital cable and HD content without the need to connect an external set-top box as is necessary now. That content could then be streamed to devices throughout the home, including the Xbox 360, Microsoft said.

Microsoft's Windows Media DRM will be used to protect recorded television content, and serve as the content protection technology for other OpenCable products that would be able to receive content from Media Center PCs.

"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," Microsoft eHome vice president Joe Belfiore said in prepared remarks.

OpenCable devices will eventually support multiple DRM systems, which means such features would not only be limited to Windows Media Center PCs. However, Windows Media DRM is the first to receive the approval of CableLabs for inclusion in devices that will support the architecture.

"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."

To date, Microsoft has sold nearly four million Windows XP Media Center Edition licenses, and 130 PC manufacturers worldwide offer computers equipped with the software. A new version of Media Center is expected to ship as a standard feature in Windows Vista, not requiring a separate OS.

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