We were momentarily excited when we heard that CableCARD compatible tuners will be available for purchase by the end of the year. A card like this would allow you to hook up your digital cable to your computer and record programs natively. This has been possible for a long time with analog cable and PVR software such as MythTV. Up to this point, recording digital cable has required a dedicated cable box and workarounds to allow the computer to change channels.
Wait a minute though, the announcement was made by Microsoft? Indeed. Microsoft has been making a big push into the home theater PC market with Media Center. Redmond’s PVR offering is also limited to recording analog television;opening up digital would expand the marketplace for them. But here’s where it gets hairy: if you read the Microsoft announcement, TV shows flagged as CF (copy freely) are the only ones that can be recorded.
So, if we have this right: you shell out money for a new tuner then you pay more for the rental of the CableCARD. Both of these expenditures are on top of a digital cable subscription. And yet you can only record shows marked with a “Copy Freely” flag. Who makes the decision on which shows we can pay to record?