June 7, 2005 | By Seth Schoen

What Does Apple's Switch to Intel Mean for DRM?

Apple fans who don't like digital rights managment (DRM) have been fretting about Apple's announcement Monday that it will move from the "PowerPC" to the Intel architecture. The Intel hardware platform is seen as more DRM-laden because of Intel's high-profile involvement in various DRM initiatives (something it's quite proud of). Intel has also promoted "trusted computing" projects (TCG and the LaGrande Technology) that can be used to strengthen DRM alongside traditional computer security applications. Does Apple's move mean more, or stronger, DRM in the Macintosh of the future?

We don't know yet. Using Intel platform features for DRM requires software support; since Apple appears set to continue its strategy of close control over both Macintosh hardware and the MacOS operating system, it has a lot of choices to make. Apple's current position on DRM in iTunes doesn't offer a lot of encouragement. There has also been speculation that Apple may be interested in using DRM-like hardware authentication features to prevent the Intel MacOS port from running on non-Macintosh hardware. The ability to do that effectively would be the culmination of DRM engineers' ongoing research into breaking emulation, a trend that started in the video game console market and has begun to spread to the PC.

It would be the height of irony if some existing DRM-like Macintosh applications written for PowerPC fail to run under Apple's "Rosetta" translator -- because they successfully detect the fact that they aren't running in a genuine PowerPC Macintosh environment.

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