Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

The Truth About Windows Vista Content Protection

Dave Marsh, Microsoft's Lead Program Manager for Windows (meaning he heads up the development) explains Content Protection in Windows Vista, and answers 20 of the most common questions.

It's important to emphasize that while Windows Vista has the necessary infrastructure to support commercial content scenarios, this infrastructure is designed to minimize impact on other types of content and other activities on the same PC.  For example, if a user were viewing medical imagery concurrently with playback of video which required image constraint, only the commercial video would be constrained -- not the medical image or other things on the user's desktop.  Similarly, if someone was listening to commercial audio content while viewing medical imagery, none of the video protection mechanisms would be activated and the displayed images would again be unaffected.

Contrary to claims made in the paper, the content protection mechanisms do not make Windows Vista PCs less reliable than they would be otherwise -- if anything they will have the opposite effect, for example because they will lead to better driver quality control.

The paper implies that Microsoft decides which protections should be active at any given time.  This is not the case.  The content protection infrastructure in Windows Vista provides a range of à la carte options that allows applications playing back protected content to properly enable the protections required by the policies established for such content by the content owner or service provider.  In this way, the PC functions the same as any other consumer electronics device.

It's a very important read, especially if you're planning on buying a Media Center PC with the new Digital Cable Tuners from ATI.



  • john noonan said:

    Microsoft isn't the problem.  People need to unite to put the movie industry in its place...just don't buy their crap anymore.

    January 21, 2007 12:04 AM
  • Wige said:

    Interesting post. It indicates that if you use your computer in a way central to your home theater (which many people have done with media center PCs) you can not continue to use it if you want to watch HD video, since Windows Vista will not play high definition DVD or BluRay disks as high definition. What is the point of owning Vista Premium or Utlitimate then? Will MS reimburse me for my $800 high definition monitor that I purchased so I could watch HD DVDs?

    QUOTE: "In the case of HD optical media formats such as HD-DVD and Blu-Ray, the constraint requirement is 520K pixels per frame"

    January 22, 2007 9:26 AM
  • Wige said:

    Don't people use their computers to play high definition DVDs? I mean, isn't that the entire point behind Premium and Ultimate edition and Media Center? Now they are taking that functionality away. How nice. So glad I bought a high definition monitor. Yay.

    In the case of HD optical media formats such as HD-DVD and Blu-Ray, the constraint requirement is 520K pixels per frame

    January 22, 2007 9:29 AM
  • Wige said:

    Sorry about that, I thought my post was lost, and wrote it again.

    January 22, 2007 9:36 AM
  • Wige, you misinterpreted. Vista does indeed play HD content at it's full pixel rate. But you have to have an HDCP-enabled video card, and be using an encrypted video path like DVI or HDMI to your monitor. If you're not, you're downconverted to the ration determined by the HDCP standard.

    January 22, 2007 11:34 AM
  • Wige said:

    Ok. I didn't catch that the comment was in regards to an unencrypted video path. My eagerness for the Vista RTM is restored.

    January 23, 2007 8:43 AM
  • MikeD said:

    Ah thank you. I was worried for a moment. I'll just go out and buy that HDCP video card. Oh wait there IS NO TRUE HDCP SUPPORT. <a href =""> evidence </a>

    It seems clear that Microsoft got bullied into this. If you resisted hollywood their market would have been almost destroyed and they would eventually need to give into you. You gave consumers the short straw when you represent 85% of our PC's. Extremely disappointing. And your lead programmer saying that 520K is enough is total rubbish. If I pay $3000 for a 1080P TV and can only watch movies in little better than Progressive scan is backwards step in technology. It's shameful.

    January 25, 2007 8:49 PM
  • MikeD said:

    Well nevermind that article because its old and newer cards came out that actually support. e.x. 7950GT, 8800 series, several ATI cards. The point is all of them are fairly high-end cards out of the reach of most consumers.

    January 26, 2007 12:13 AM
  • frozenjim said:

    Just stop enforcing things.  I don't WANT my computer to police me.  I don't APPROVE of a software company enforcing their will on my computer.

    If I make a movie, I should be able to play it back in the highest quality POSSIBLE on my machine - regardless of whether or not the video adapter manufacturer has agreed to cripple me or not.  

    LEAVE THE HARDWARE VENDORS ALONE - it is MY CHOICE to use their drivers - not Microsoft's.  It is my choice to obey the law - not Microsoft's.  

    January 28, 2007 3:01 AM