Windows 7 to support non-OEM CableCARD

TV-on-PC users rejoice! CableCARD support is finally coming to PC expansion cards available through retail channels.

Windows has long used the Broadcast Driver Architecture (BDA) to communicate with TV tuner cards, but the folks in charge of CableCARD had a major problem with it: there's no DRM support. Because of this they forbade selling any add-on cards alone, and any TV tuners you could buy would only work with analog or ClearQAM (unencrypted) channels, which typically means low-def or local channels only. The only way to get CableCARD support on a PC was to buy a full OEM setup that included the tuners.

One of the new features in Windows 7 is the new PBDA (Protected BDA) API which, you guessed it, supports DRM. With PBDA, WDDM, and HDCP, the signal can be protected from the tuner all the way to the monitor. Microsoft kept quiet and avoided acknowledging any questions about it during the test, but many testers speculated it would be part of a bigger push from Microsoft to open up CableCARD add-on support, and it turns out we were right. I wouldn't be surprised to see announcements of new hardware from Hauppauge and other tuner manufacturers.

I watch a lot of TV—usually in the form of a small box in the corner of the screen while I'm coding, so I've got plenty of time. I currently have two Hauppauge HVR-2250 cards for a total of four tuners. This works great for my local channels like NBC and FOX but there are always some shows I like on cable channels, so I'll be looking forward to some of the new hardware, like Ceton's new 6-tuner CableCARD behemoth.