January 9, 2007 | By Derek Slater

CES 2007: DRM, Device "Integration," HD Cable on the PC

Michael Gartenberg sums up one theme of CES nicely:

"A few years ago, it was all about convergence, the merging of all functionality into a single device. This year, it's all about how to integrate the diversity of devices that consumers are using into a whole that allows for the information and content they want to flow seamlessly from device to device....

"DRM restricts the flow of content seamlessly. Likewise, home networks are still a huge issue (but lots of stuff being shown at CES that can help potentially overcome some of this stuff)."

On the one hand, we've seen devices like Sling's new Sling Catcher, which will help you send video from your PC to your TV. Netgear and Bittorrent are also teaming up to help you download video and move it around your digital home.

On the other hand, there are also some clear DRM fault lines. For instance, quite a few companies at CES are showing off devices that will let you receive digital cable on PCs running Microsoft Vista. These CableCARD-compatible devices allow you to do away with your cable company's proprietary set-top box and receive and record HD straight to your computer.

That's great news, but there's a catch. As explored in our article about TiVo Series 3 for HD, all CableCARD-compatible devices are forced to add DRM shackles. So with these Vista devices, you'll be limited in how you stream around the home, and you won't be able to copy recordings to other devices. In other words, you've already invested a good chunk of change in your cable subscription, but it seems you'll have to pay again for the same content if you want it on another device.

When you ask product representatives when new CableCARD-compatible devices will be approved to help with portability around the home and beyond, they say "soon." (The same answer you get when you ask when you'll be allowed to rip that HD-DVD you bought to your iPod with the DRM vapor-ware known as "AACS Managed Copy.") At a convention that hypes up devices that aren't even close to the market (let alone ready for mass adoption), "soon" translates to "a very long time."


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