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More Vista Questions Answered

Friday, March 2nd, 2007 by | Filed Under: Uncategorized

More Vista Questions Answered

Have some more questions about Windows Vista? Then read here, because some of them may be answered right here, right now!

To begin, Windows Vista includes a content protection infrastructure that is specifically designed to help ensure that protected commercial audiovisual content, such as newly released HD-DVD or Blu-Ray discs, can be enjoyed on Windows Vista PCs. In many cases, this content has policies associated with its use that must be enforced by playback devices.

The policies associated with such content are applicable to all types of devices, including Windows Vista PCs, computers running non-Windows operating systems and standalone consumer electronics devices, such as DVD players. If the policies required protections that Windows Vista couldn’t support, the content would not be able to play at all on Windows Vista PCs. Clearly, that isn’t a good scenario for users who are looking to enjoy great next generation content experiences on their PCs.

Okay, so here we go. If you’ve been wondering about the above content, the following questions and answers may help you understand more about Windows Vista.

  • Do these content protection requirements apply equally to the Consumer Electronics industry supplied player devices, such as an HD-DVD or Blu-Ray player?

Generally, the requirements are equivalent for all devices. For example, an HD-DVD or Blu-Ray disc always requires HDCP protection for DVI/HDMI outputs regardless of the type of device playing the disc. There are some cases, such as DVD-Video, where PCs have slightly different protection requirements than CE devices, but these differences are mainly historical and as dictated by the licenses associated with the systems providing access to the content (for example, CSS for DVD).

  • When are Windows Vista’s content protection features actually used?

Windows Vista’s content protection mechanisms are only used when required by the policy associated with the content being played. For Windows Vista experiences, if the content does not require a particular protection, that protection mechanism is not used.

  • Will the playback quality be reduced on some video output types?

Image quality constraints are only active when required by the policy associated with the content being played and even then, they only apply to that specific content, not to any other content on the user’s desktop. As a practical matter, image constraints will typically result in content being played at no worse than standard definition television resolutions. In the case of HD optical media formats, such as HD-DVD and Blu-Ray, the constraint requirement is 520K pixels per frame (roughly 960×540), which is still higher than the native resolution of content distributed in the DVD-Video format. Microsoft feels that this still yields a great user experience, even when using a high definition screen.

  • Will this affect things like medical imagery applications?

Image constraints only apply to protected content being played and not to the desktop as a whole. Therefore, the resolution of other non-protected media, such as medical images, will not be affected.

  • Do things such as HFS (Hardware Functionality Scan) affect the ability of the open-source community to write a driver?

No. HFS uses additional chip characteristics other than those needed to write a driver. HFS requirements should not prevent the disclosure of all the information needed to write drivers.

  • Will the Windows Vista content protection board robustness recommendations increase the cost of graphics cards and reduce the number of build options?

Everything was moving to be integrated on the one chip anyway and this is independent of content protection recommendations. Given that cost (particularly chip cost) is most heavily influenced by volume, it is actually better to avoid making things optional through the use of external chips. It is a happy side effect that this technology trend also reduces the number of vulnerable tracks on the board.

  • Will Windows Vista content protection features increase CPU resource consumption?

Yes. However, the use of additional CPU cycles is inevitable, as the PC provides consumers with additional functionality. Windows Vista’s content protection features were developed to carefully balance the need to provide robust protection from commercial content while still enabling great new experiences, such as HD-DVD and Blu-Ray playbacks.

  • Aren’t there already output content protection features in Windows XP?

Yes. Output content protections are not new requirements for commercial content. The CSS content protection system for DVD-video discs requires output protections, such as Macrovision ACP and limiting the resolution on component video outputs to standard definition. Windows XP has supported these requirements for some time.

  • Is content protection something that is tied to High Definition video?

While HD content has some unique content protection requirements, many of the requirements apply to commercial content generally, independent of resolution.

  • What about S/PDIF audio connections?

Windows Vista does not require S/PDIF to be turned off, but Windows Vista continues to support the ability to turn it off for certain content, which is a capability that has been present on the Windows platform for many years. Additionally, in order to support the requirements of some types of content, Windows Vista supports the ability to constrain the quality of the audio component of that content. Similar to image constraint for video, this quality constraint only applies to the audio from content whose policy requires the constraint, not to any other audio being played concurrently on the system. As a practical matter, these audio restrictions are not widely used today.

So, there you go. If you’re an avid audiovisual guru, this information will really help you when using Windows Vista. Hope it helped you out!

~ Ramachandran Kumaraswami

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