Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Vista DRM Morass

After listening to the series of Security Now podcasts on Vista DRM (episodes 73,74,75 and 77), I got to thinking about the difference in position between Microsoft and Apple.

Microsoft is a software company whose software runs on what up to now has been a very open hardware platform provided by a vast array of vendors. Thus Microsoft have chosen and perhaps been forced to implement security features in their Vista operating system to allow protected High Definition content to be displayed safely on HD displays attached to the PC. When I say safely, it is not about protecting you from the content, it is about protecting the content from you and making sure that you do nothing unauthorized with content that you have paid good money for.

All this security comes at a price. It sucks up processing power. Complexity and the requirement for vigilance cuts into software reliability. The problems are evident. Vista had only just been released when the first Service Pack was announced. Moreover, while the Vista software itself is available, the truth is that the video drivers are not up to scratch and it will take some time before they work properly.

Apple, on the other hand, is a hardware and systems company. Their solution to protected video content is the Apple TV box. This is a little piece of hardware that connects to your TV and handles decoding and display of the protected High Definition content. An Apple computer does not need the complexity of the Vista protected video path because it is all wrapped up in a little box. The Apple TV box is not perfect. It is not quite here yet and from the specs it seems to lack codecs, however it does seem to be a better systems solution than Microsoft Vista.

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