Who's Watching TV on their PC?

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.

One may question the business (or even consumer) value of TV on a PC, but with the abundance of business programming and news feeds, TV is becoming an important source of information for today's businesses. Brokerage houses will watch financial channels, trucking companies will watch live weather and traffic broadcasts, and others may just want to tune into local news. Any way you slice it, TV can bring critical information into the business environment and even to the desktop PC user.

It's not as easy as you think.
Most system builders would conclude that all you need to do is pop a tuner card into a PC and run an installation program and voila!, you get TV on your PC. Well, it's not that easy after all, although it should be.


Windows Media Center does not support QAM tuners and only recognizes digital tuners using terrestrial (ATSC) broadcasts.

One of the first challenges comes from Microsoft Windows Vista. Although some of Vista's releases come with Windows Media Center, which would normally be ideal for managing TV, Media Center does not support QAM tuners and only recognizes digital tuners using terrestrial (ATSC) broadcasts. The only way to get QAM with Media Center is to purchase an OEM system that offers the Windows Media Center TV Pack. In other words, you'll need a completely new system, with an integrated tuner card that is certified by CableLabs. So, currently, users will need to rely on third-party applications to add a QAM Tuner to Vista Media Center. However, users of Media Center may get support for QAM come Sept. 3, when Microsoft may (or may not) release Media Center's TV Pack update to consumers at the Denver CEDIA Conference.

For those looking for QAM on Vista today, there are several manufacturers making QAM tuner cards that come with bundled software that replaces or supplements Vista Media Center. We took a look at a pair of products that does just that: the PCTV HD Pro Stick (801e) from Pinnacle Systems and the ATI TV Wonder HD 650 PCI Express. We tested both of those products on a Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit system from Super Micro Computer, powered by a quad-core Intel CPU, 8GB of RAM and an Nvidia Quadro FX 5600 display adapter.

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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