This one really has me ticked. Microsoft has released a Media Center “TV Pack” (similar to a Power Pack or Service Pack). The update/upgrade enables Clear QAM support for Windows Media Center inside of Vista SP1.
This is important because? Well, it means that you can now watch HD programming over cable, without the need for a CableCARD. Of course, your cable operator probably doesn’t offer all HD channels via Clear QAM, they’re only required to offer network programming. However, having perfect-clarity of all the network channels in (unencrypted) HD is something that killer apps like TiVo and Eye TV have done well… and Media Center has failed on.
But, here’s the catch: You can’t have it! Microsoft is only making the “TV Pack” available to OEM providers (computer manufacturers). This means that you have to buy a brand new PC, with tuner cards pre-installed, in order to get Clear QAM.
The real insult is that Clear QAM is asked for the most by people who don’t want to buy a new PC… people in the market for a new PC, can just get a CableCARD-enabled PC. This update would benefit most customers who already own a Media Center PC, and could just plug in a TV Tuner with QAM support (and nowadays, most tuner cards support Clear QAM).
Microsoft, this is backwards logic, and it’s downright immoral. The company has done the hard work of enabling Clear QAM inside of Media Center. Now, it’s time to offer that support to customers that have endured the upgrade path to Windows Vista.
This is one of those I’m not going to let Microsoft go on. It was downright unacceptable that Media Center could only support Clear QAM over CableCARD. Now it’s downright unacceptable that they won’t commit to giving the update to consumers.