More details on Windows 10’s PlayReady 3.0 DRM and 4K ultra HD content

by on May 2, 2015

Stephan Jukic – May 2, 2015

We’ve already covered some of the looser rumors around the upcoming PlayReady 3.0 DRM that’s going to be packaged with Windows 10 PCs as they roll out onto the market, now it seems that we have some more concrete details to offer on the whole issue.

So as we’d covered previously, Microsoft, in an effort to attract 4K content to the ultra HD PCs that its Windows 10 will be widely available in, is working on a 3.0 version of its PlayReady DRM technology and this new update should make it possible to play back ultra HD content that has been protected against unlawful copying. However, the content that gets delivered will only be viewable on hardware that supports PlayReady 3.0 DRM technology. Thus, there will be some possibly heavy handed limitations on how UHD video from professional sources gets viewed on ultra HD PCs.

The PlayReady 3.0 DRM system is a new version of Microsoft’s existing and already established DRM technology but it hasn’t quite yet been released to the public. Some of the latest information from Microsoft itself indicates that the PlayReady DRM tech will have to be supported by new hardware and not just software updates. Thus, older PCs and TVs or other media devices without PlayReady 3.0 compatibility won’t even gain access to DRM protected content in full 4K resolution. In otherwords, you’ll have to physically update your hardware if you want 4K quality from entertainment sources like Netflix coming to your UHD PC.

User who don’t have said hardware updates for PlayReady 3.0 will still be able to receive their videos in lower resolutions like Full HD and 720p HD but this is about it because the PlayReady 3.0 DRM automatically detects which hardware pieces support 4K DRM and which ones don’t. The PlayReady then adjusts available resolution for a given PC accordingly.

Similar systems that will do the same thing also include the AACS 2.0 DRM standard on Ultra HD Blu-ray, which will detect if a given output includes HDCP 2.2 over an HDMI 2.0 cable, thus allowing transmission of 4K movies, or if a connection is in HDMI 1.4 with an older version of HDCP, thus allowing only Full HD and HD output of content.

4K content from YouTube is already available to most 4K UHD PCs but professional studio content like Netflix and Amazon Prime in 4K have yet to arrive

4K content from YouTube is already available to most 4K UHD PCs but professional studio content like Netflix and Amazon Prime in 4K have yet to arrive

But moving back to DisplayReady 3.0, the new DRM’s exact protection and detection technology hasn’t been fully explained by Microsoft quite yet. However, the company did demonstrate the technology on previous occasions, despite being secretive about its exact mechanism. Thus, for now at least, we still don’t know exactly what hardware is going to be supported or required in order for 4K content to work on a given PC or TV with PlayReady 3.0.

What is clear however, is that Microsoft is working with chip makers like Intel, AMD, Qualcomm and Nvidia in implementing the 3.0 DRM system into new PCs. These same chipmakers also represent some of the top names in the field of 4K content processing on TVs, mobile devices and PCs/notebooks.

PlayReady should be coming to PCs with Windows 10 later in 2015 and will offer the possibility of streaming 4K content from studio sources not only to a 4K PC but also to additional compatible screens like TVs through Miracast technology. We can basically see that Microsoft is looking to make the latest version of Windows as appealing as possible to the entire game of streaming media in general and streaming 4K media in particular. In other words, Microsoft is also betting on the future of 4K video and gaming as the next gold standard for PC and TV entertainment streamed over the web.

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