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Always look at the date when you read a hardware article. Some of the content in this article is most likely out of date, as it was written on September 29, 2006. For newer information, see our more recent articles.
Windows Vista and Digital Cable Support
Sometime early in 2007, Microsoft is expected to launch their next version of Windows - known as Vista. It will ship out in several variations, with both full and upgrade versions (for people currently running XP). Two of the expected versions (Home Premium and Ultimate) will include Media Center functionality, very similar to what is available now.
The main difference so far revealed is support for digital TV tuners. Digital television is becoming quite popular these days, because it sends the video and audio signals directly in way that computers (and other digital devices) can understand. It also takes up a lot less room (or bandwidth) than analog television when being broadcast, which means a cable or satellite company can provide more channels (and more advertisements) to their customers.
Adding support for this means that, assuming hardware manufacturers build compatible devices, you should be able to hook your digital cable feed directly into the computer rather than having to go through an external tuner box. Besides eliminating the need for the extra hardware, this should also improve the image quality for digital-cable customers and remove the extra step of encoding TV shows (since they will already be digitally encoded). Perhaps even more significantly, it should open the door for HDTV cable tuners - meaning that better video cards (to decode the signal) will be needed, along with larger hard drives (since HDTV signals take a lot more space than either normal digital or analog signals).
Once Vista is released and the necessary hardware becomes available, we will update this article with new recommended parts and any other Media Centric features Vista adds.
For more information on the existing Media Center platform, see Microsoft's website
For more information about Windows Vista, check out the following links:
And lastly, here is our Certified Home Theater Computer, featuring Windows MCE 2005