Why? With Longhorn, Microsoft
will begin pushing opium. Well, technically it?s OPM. However, opium might be a good option for those livid that the
video content being sent to their pristine 24-inch Dell LCD monitors is purposefully being ?fuzzied? (more on that
So what is OPM? The successor to Microsoft?s rarely-mentioned COPP (Certified Output Protection Protocol), PVP-OPM
(Protected Video Path ? Output Protection Management) is the first play in Microsoft?s game plan to ensure that
protected content stays protected. PVP-OPM performs two main functions. First, it detects the capabilities of the
display devices attached to the computer. For instance, does the DVI LCD monitor that you?re using have HDCP
(High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection)? Second, it manages what, if anything, gets sent to those devices.
If you?re one of those rare people whose display is equipped with HDCP, you?re fine. However, in the world of
computers, those users are few and far between. While HDCP has become the de facto standard for display copy-protection
in televisions, its penetration in the computer display market would be pleased to merely be called
anemic. Whether you?re plunking down money for one of the new ultra-fast LCD displays with 4ms response times or you?re
becoming the envy of neighborhood with
Dell?s UltraSharp 2405FPW
widescreen display, you?re buying a monitor that won?t play nice with premium content in Longhorn.
So what will happen when you try to play premium content on your incompatible monitor? If you?re ?lucky?, the content
will go through a resolution constrictor. The purpose of this constrictor is to down-sample high-resolution content to
below a certain number of pixels. The newly down-sampled content is then blown back up to match the resolution of your
monitor. This is much like when you shrink a JPEG and then zoom into it. Much of the clarity is lost. The result is a
picture far fuzzier than it need be.
It sure is ? when the alternative is a black screen. If OPM determines that your monitor falls below the security
restrictions (i.e. isn?t DVI or HDMI w/HDCP), you could be greeted with a ?polite message explaining that [your
monitor] doesn?t meet security requirements.?
Who determines when you get the restrictor and when you get the black screen? You guessed it: the content owner
?But I use VGA with my monitor,? you say. Too bad. Unless you upgrade your monitor, you too will be hoping your
content provider opted for the blurry-but-visible protection mechanism.
Microsoft is quick to point out that many content providers have agreed to not totally block all analog displays.
Instead they have agreed to compromise and allow the constricted (down-sampled) versions to pass through. Still ? this
is a far cry from enjoying the unmolested goodness of hi-def content.
To be fair ? it?s not just Microsoft. The next generation of digital content will, by and large, be protected to the
display. Recently Toshiba released their HD-DVD specifications and have dictated HDMI/HDCP as a display requirement for
playing back high-definition content. Most expect Blu-ray to have similar restrictions.
What makes the PC situation so insidious is that nearly every monitor being sold today will fall victim to this
gotcha. Blame whomever you like (the monitor manufacturers should shoulder their portion of the blame too), just be
careful when buying a monitor these days. Or at least know that you could be setting yourself up for
If have comments or suggestions for future columns, drop me a line at