Many of you might be familiar with CyberLink as a manufacturer of DVD playback software, but in this two-part special report and CES preview, we will be talking about some of the lesser known aspects of the company. What you might know is that CyberLink is actually based in Taiwan, rather than in the U.S. or Europe, as most of its competitors these days. As you might be aware, Taiwan is hardly known for its great software developers, but CyberLink is one of the few that breaks this trend.
You might very well be using their software on your computer without knowing it, as CyberLink generates 80 percent of its income from its OEM business. Many well know computer manufacturers use CyberLink’s software but have their own custom front-ends and you’d be none the wiser than presume that those companies have created their own utilities for audio and video playback. However, CyberLink is trying hard to get into the retail market and has been working heavily on expanding its distribution network and in Europe they’re working together with Koch Media to mention one company.
But this article is about digital TV, but it will focus somewhat on DVB-T and the problems Europeans are faced with when it comes to watching digital TV on their computer. As you hopefully know by now, the analog TV networks are being switched off all over Europe and some countries such as Sweden, Finland, Netherlands and Andorra have already switched over to digital, with Germany planned to be done by the end of next year and the rest of Europe to follow of the next 3-5 years. The U.S. is also going digital and that transition is meant to be done in 2009, although they’re using the ATSC standard, rather than DVB-T and other countries are also going digital slowly, but surely.
One problem we’re all faced with, no matter where in the world you live, is how you get paid for digital TV channels onto your computer. Today, there’s no such solution for digital terrestrial TV and even if you’re using digital satellite TV, you’re very limited when it comes to your choice of hardware if you want to watch premium TV channels. By now you might wonder what this has to do with CyberLink, a company that makes DVD playback and PVR software. Well, a lot more than you’d expect, as the company has been working with all the major manufacturers of digital TV encryption systems and CyberLink should be launching a solution next year that allows you to watch these types of programs on your computer.
CyberLink will be showing a demo of this during CES early next year, but we can already tell you how it works. CyberLink has done a software solution that allows you to connect a CAM (Conditional Access Module) reader via a USB port to your PC. This has really been the missing part of the puzzle so far, as the companies behind the digital TV encryption systems have not been keen on this idea as it could possibly allow for an easy way to hack their encryption systems. CyberLink has worked with some of the major players on the market here, such as Nagravision, Viaccess, Conax and NDS to mention a few. A CAM module looks a lot like a PC Card and it’s based on the same standard and they feature a built-in smart card reader into which you insert your subscription card.
These CAM modules are available in some countries, depending on the service providers, but there’s still no guarantee that you can legally obtain one in some countries. Although Sky in the U.K. isn’t using DVB-T, the company is notoriously well known for not wanting to release a compatible CAM module for its digital satellite TV service. But back to CyberLink, as with this solution and a suitable CAM module, you should be able to use your current DVB-T tuner to receive encrypted programs, which should be great news for many people out there. From our understanding, there’s no limitation to the type of interface on the DVB-T tuner either, but we should be able to find out more during CES 2008.
In many countries such as the Netherlands and Sweden it’s little point in having a DVB-T tuner, as you’d only be able to receive one or two TV channels for free, while the rest are encrypted. This will, of course, differ from country to country and in the U.K. with its Freeview service this isn’t as big of an issue, although with this option you will be able to add the Top-up-TV channels which you currently can’t watch on your computer. This is also good news for anyone with a Media Center PC, as it will allow you to add the premium channels and it should give you the option to record these channels just as you can with any free channels.
CyberLink is also working on solutions for DVB-S and DVB-S2, not to forget the recently decided upon European standard for mobile TV, DVB-H, but at least for DVB-H we’re only talking software solutions for now. It’s great to see that someone has stepped up and managed to produce a product which will enhance the way digital TV can be accessed on your computer and that for once it’s not a solution that comes for a service provider, but rather something that follows an already existing standard and just brings it to the PC. We didn’t get a firm launch date from CyberLink, but hopefully they’ll announce this during CES 2008.
We’ll bring you part two tomorrow when we’ll take a closer look at some of CyberLinks other upcoming projects.