Digital TV on PCs: It's Not as Easy as You Think

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article Print

Can vendors make Microsoft Vista ready for the switch to digital TV? Take an in-depth look at two DTV tuners that may have all the answers and learn how solution providers can profit from the transition to digital television.

Digital TV is on the way. And in case you've missed the persistent FCC ads, the switch to DTV means analog televisions will no longer work come February 2009. While plenty has been written about what the DTV switch means for TVs with rabbit ears, little has been said about the DTV transition on PCs. In most cases, PCs with TV tuner cards connected to a cable television provider will not be affected, but those relying on over-the-air broadcasts are likely to lose their TV signals post DTV transition.


REUTERS/Steve Marcus

 Exhibitors look over Samsung televisions during last year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Despite suggestions that the nation is ill-prepared for the conversion to digital TV, the Department of Commerce plans to help subsidize the switchover.

What's more, over time even cable-connected PCs will not be immune to the impact of digital television. Many cable providers are starting to reduce the number of analog broadcasts that they carry to make room for the bandwidth demands of digital and high-definition broadcasts—a change that translates to fewer channels for the TV tuner-enabled PC.

Further complicating the issue is that many cable providers are now offering direct digital broadcasts using a technology called QAM (quadrature amplitude modulation) for both standard-definition and high-definition video. In some cases, the cable provider may scramble the QAM signal, which means a set-top cable box is a must-have item. However, many cable providers are starting to offer channels with Clear QAM, which is unscrambled and allows viewers to watch content by using a QAM-enabled tuner.

While all of this may be good news to the typical TV viewer, the simple fact remains that thanks to all of the changes and options, watching TV on a PC has become more complicated than ever, and that creates opportunities for system builders looking to jump on the digital TV bandwagon.

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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