FiringSquad: When might we see All-in-Wonder boards in the US with a ATSC or QAM tuner?
Godfrey Cheng: As you know we donít discussed unannounced products. But dang, such a product would be really cool huh? Specially in a world without Broadcast Flag for ATSC.
[Alan's comment: The Broadcast Flag is a proposed "feature" of HDTV in which content providers can set restrictions on how the content can be used. These include an inability to save a program to the HDD or permanent storage media, inability to make copies-of-copies, or forced reduction of video quality, or an inability to skip over commercials. Originally this law was intended to go into effect on July 1, 2005 but a federal court ruled that the FCC did not have the authority to make this law. Thus, the broadcast flag is NOT in practice at this time. However, the federal court made no ruling on whether the concept of a Broadcast Flag itself is legal. The "broadcast flag" could be made into law if it were introduced in Congress. If this were to happen, a federal court would likely have to decide whether or not the Broadcast Flag that prevented copying fell within accepted practices such as DVD or SCMS copy protection or if it was in violation of the rulings that let us have VCRs.
ATI cannot discuss unannounced products, but I hope they see value in an AIW product with HD tuners. In many smaller HTPC builds, there is no room for a dedicated PCI HDTV Wonder; an AIW would be very useful in this regard.]
FiringSquad: What does ISF certification actually entail in terms of technical measurements? That is, while the ISF is a highly respected organization, it would be helpful to know what they consider to be their minimum standards. That is, even for something as exclusive as THX Ultra2 certification, you have a wide range of quality within the listo f certified products. (Likewise, seeing THX Ultra2 certified receiver tells me that itís 3.2 ohm stable, and can play at reference levels in a 3000 cubic ft room when paired with THX certified speakers)
Godfrey Cheng: ISF, like THX, is an independent companyís certification of the display quality of a vendorís hardware. ATI worked closely with Microsoft to bring ISF certification to the PC World earlier this year. What you will find is that the quality that is necessary to achieve ISF certification will change, the bar will get higher with every major product release. As the leader of video & display quality in the PC World, we are confident that our hardware and software will be setting the high bar in the ISF Labs. An overview of what ISF tests for can be found at http://www.imagingscience.com/rl/ISFRL_Certification_Overview.pdf.
[Alan's comment: Unfortunately, without specifics, the value of the Imaging Science Foundation certification is limited. There are several problems which prevent ISF certification from being a truly useful measure.
One problem is that ISF certification changes each year. This means that last year's ISF certified product may not be certifiable the following year. This can only add to the confusion. The more important problem is that the criteria required for certification is only provided under NDA. For example, looking at the above PDF we can see that the ISF runs a extensive set of tests ranging from the Y/C delay of the analog inputs to the quality of the outputs, to something as simple (but important) as having an infrared remote work at a 20 foot distance (a requirement of a ISF certified Windows MCE2005 system). However, we are never told how much of a Y/C delay is acceptable. Likewise, what happens if a product A has superior playback DVD quality than product B, but fails at the ability to reproduce the PLUGE or "blacker-than-black" criteria? (ISF calls this foot room preservation). The whole point is that blacker than black is not intended to be seen. So a hardware calibrated system that did not pass the blacker-than-black signal would fail ISF even if it had a perfect reproduction of the intended source.
In a way, we the consumer, are asked to take the ISF's quality measurement with good faith. This can be tough. ISF is in the business of making money by charging companies for testing. Microsoft is in the business of getting Media Center PCs to be accepted by the general public. ATI is in the business of convincing consumers to buy newer hardware. No one in this process is looking out for the consumer without having at least some conflict of interest. While it's true that the ISF has a reputation to uphold, it's hard to know how lenient or stringent the ISF is. Consider the fact that ISF certifies the deinterlacing in Windows Media Center PC's, however these deinterlacers score very poorly on the HQV Benchmark DVD, a test where the criteria and scoring are very well defined.
THX certification is somewhat similar to ISF certification. Most of the criteria required for certification is unknown. That said, there are certain details that are disclosed (the 3.2 ohm stable amps, etc.). Perhaps most importantly is that THX Ultra2 processors have valuable and tangible features such as de-correlation, Cinema Re-equalization, and boundary gain compensation.
When you pay more for THX Ultra2 certification in a home theater receiver, you pay for some unique processing algorithms. When you pay more for ISF certification, you're asked to have faith that someone at ISF is looking out for the consumer.
We would rather that THX and ISF make their criteria public knowledge. Consider the NHTSA car crash tests. It's no secret how those tests are done. The result has been car manufacturers working harder to improve car safety. Imagine if it was "big oil" who worked with an "independent third party" company to test car safety...]