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OCUR Gets Low Marks

Maximum PC offers an early review of the OpenCable Unidirectional Receiver (OCUR), and it would be an understatement to say the computer mag is less than impressed.

"I haven't witnessed a product rollout botched this badly since Microsoft introduced the Zune," wrote Michael Brown in his review of the ATI Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: ATYT; Toronto: ATY) OCUR implementation on a PC running Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) Vista.

OCUR allows PCs, including Microsoft Media Center PCs running the new OS, to receive and display premium cable video fare -- including high-definition television (HDTV) programming. OCUR-enabled PCs are authorized for those services with a CableCARD, a removable module that contains the keys to unlock the cable operator's conditional access system. In addition to Microsoft, CableLabs has also approved the RealNetworks Inc. (Nasdaq: RNWK) Helix digital rights management system for OCUR.

Presently, OCUR can handle only one-way, unidirectional digital cable services, meaning no cable video-on-demand (VOD). The cable industry is working on a two-way version, however. (See Cable Developing Two-Way PCTV Play .)

The bulk of the review describes an exercise in futility trying to get the system installed, configured, and running. It's coupled in part with a play-by-play of a Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) technician discussing the situation with his OCUR contact at Microsoft. Multiple attempts over two days do not produce a TV picture. The reviewer has since sent the PCs back to their manufacturers but plans to try again when Velocity Micro sends its back for another attempt.

Brown's conclusion: "I'll report on those results in a future blog. But for now, I wouldn’t recommend buying a PC with an OCUR card until Microsoft, AMD (ATI), and the cable companies get their collective acts together."

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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