Cable Labs Certified Media Center – Requirements

Cable Labs is really putting the screws on OEM users, who like to home-brew their media center PC on the cheap.  To view and record HDTV content on a new Vista MCE PC, the following is a list of required components (thanks Chris Lanier):

1) Vista Home Premium or Ultimate
2) HDCP Video Card
3) Special BIOS w/ OCUR bit set
4) OCUR (CableCARD Reader/Digital Cable Tuner)
5) OCUR Product Key (separate from Windows Product Key)
6) Sign MS agreement
7) Sign CableLabs agreement
8) Video drivers that support COPP, PVP-OPM, CGMS-A
9) Sound card to support exact requirements of CableLabs

Thought: The OCUR product key worries me a little, how much does one want to bet that the product key is pre-installed with a new system and not made available to the end consumer – preventing upgrade/re-pave of the system.

So.. essentially you’re looking at a completely new box – no hope of just adding cable card support to your existing MCE hardware.  At present, very few vendors are providing Cable Labs certified PCs, and I haven’t seen much in the way of certified bare-bones systems either.

According to Engadget, Vidabox are coming out with an all sing and dancing cable-card, Blue Ray, HD DVD unit in March, but it at $4500 it’s not cheap:

Conclusion: it is still early days.  Vista isn’t yet mainstream, and many vendors have yet to come out of the “Cable Labs” woodwork.  I expect to see a change throughout this year as devices come onto the market that support cable card HDTV.

2 thoughts on “Cable Labs Certified Media Center – Requirements

  1. http://

    This is complete crap and citizens shouldn’t buy into it.

    Requiring consumers to buy complete new systems just to access digital cable is absurd.

  2. robgarrett

    I agree that it’s absurd that consumers need to buy new machines to take advantage of digital cable on MCE – I actually went ahead and purchased a new unit recently (see:

    Of course, you do not need to buy a new box if you’re happy with the cable company provided set-top-box and integrated DVR. Tivo now also allows you to record HD content from a cable pipe.


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