Windows 7 RTM Media Center Evolves

With support for Switched Digital Video and digital cable tuners with CableCARD

Windows Media Center is one the main vertebrae of Windows 7’s backbone user experience, an operating system component that should be pushed to the foreground when it comes to entertainment capabilities without hesitation. Not without its shortcomings, Windows Media Center continues to grow, Microsoft proved at CEDIA EXPO 2009, even after Windows 7 was released to manufacturing. In this regard, the company announced the addition of support for Switched Digital Video (SDV) to Windows Media Center in Windows Vista’s successor.

Available in the Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate SKUs of Windows 7, Windows Media Center is now capable of allowing end users to tune to SDV channels. The software giant explained that the support for SDV was catalyzed by customer feedback and by the proliferation of the distribution method for digital video via cable among cable providers. Users will, of course, need a tuning adapter in order to watch SDV channels, and they will have to get one from the cable provider. The complete receipt to tune to SDV channels involves Windows Media Center in Windows 7, as well as a digital cable tuner with CableCARD.

But not to fret, Microsoft has assured customers running Windows 7 that adding digital cable tuners with CableCard to their PCs will be a seamless experience. The Redmond-based company plans to deliver a new tool designed to scan Windows 7 machines and evaluate their ability to support the CableCard tuners. Microsoft noted that digital cable support would only be enabled once the tool had verified that the scanned computer met all requirements. Besides adding a digital cable tuner with CableCard, Windows 7 users will also be able to connect up to three more solutions, namely a total of four per tuner type. Want to watch/record no less than four digital cable TV channels? Well, with Windows 7 and Windows Media Center, now you can.

“We are excited that digital cable customers will now be able to take advantage of this new opportunity to bring great cable TV programming to the PC,” said So Vang, vice president of OpenCable at CableLabs. “We are dedicated to helping customers get the most from their cable service, and this will be a great win for both the customer and the cable operators.”

In addition, because of the collaboration between Microsoft and CableLabs, digital cable TV marked as “copy freely” (CF) will provide a high degree of portability. Digital cable tuner with CableCARD customers will essentially be able to enjoy CF-marked digital cable recordings on other computers or devices than on those they were recorded.

“We’re continuing to work on creating opportunities for partners that will enable great entertainment experiences on the PC,” said Craig Eisler, corporate vice president of entertainment client software for the TV, Video & Music Business at Microsoft. “Consumers understand that having access to content via the PC is critical when it comes to entertainment experiences, and with these announcements, we’re underscoring our broader commitment to deliver a rich experience with Windows Media Center.”

Windows 7 RTM Enterprise 90-Day Evaluation is available for download here.

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