32-bit Vista to lack HD DVD, Blu-ray playback

Board partners for both ATI and Nvidia are starting to add High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection support to their graphics cards, but users planning to view Blu-ray or HD DVD movies on their PCs may need to watch out before upgrading to Windows Vista next year. APC Magazine reports that Microsoft has opted to disable playback of copy-protected Blu-ray and HD DVD movies in 32-bit versions of Windows Vista. The limitation is a result of support for unsigned drivers in 32-bit versions of Vista, which media companies believe could leave room for copy protection circumvention methods. 64-bit versions of the upcoming operating system will only support signed drivers and will thus retain support for the two high-definition formats.

This limitation may not upset desktop users too much; 64-bit desktop processors have been around for a while and include all AMD Athlon 64 and Athlon 64 X2 chips as well as all Intel Pentium 4 6xx, Pentium 4 5x1, Pentium D, and Core 2 Duo chips. However, Microsoft's decision will likely miff users of HD DVD- or Blu-ray-enabled notebooks like Sony's Vaio AR190G, which includes a 32-bit Intel Core Duo processor.

Update: The situation is apparently a little more complex than first reported. A U.S. Microsoft representative has told CNet that 32-bit versions of Windows Vista will be able to play back Blu-ray and HD DVD movies, but that they will require third-party software to do so. The rep says it's up to software vendors to decide whether to support 32-bit systems. Since, according to the first story, Microsoft's decision to limit built-in support was due to requests from media companies, third-party software vendors could face similar pressure to leave users of 32-bit systems behind.

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