Intel’s new chips

Courtesy of John Robb comes this article about Intel putting in some security measures in their new chips, due next year. John’s response:

Intel to include copy protection functionality in new chips. I personally won’t ever buy a chip with type of stuff on it. Unless there is an alternative, my aggressive upgrade cycle has ended (I usually buy the high-end chips and pay a premium). I hope other people feel the same way. The same goes for Microsoft’s Palladium.”

Now I normally like John’s blog, but is this an overreaction or what? What does the article say John? Let’s take a look:

Paul Otellini, Intel’s president and chief operating officer, said the company doesn’t plan to offer any copy protection as part of LaGrande. But he acknowledged that the technology could be a foundation for other companies to do so, possibly working with Microsoft.

So Intel doesn’t plan on adding it, but certainly if some hardware manufacturers wanted to add it to a pre-built system, they could. But they don’t have to, there’s a choice! Also:

Similarly with LaGrande, Mr. Otellini stressed that users can switch on or off the security features. He added that the company has had talks with Hollywood firms about the technology and antipiracy techniques, a field sometimes called DRM, for digital rights management.

“We have this philosophy on content, that Hollywood ought to protect it at its source,” Mr. Otellini said.

Again, Intel is going to build it with users having the ability to turn it off. That’s a good thing. It gives the users choices, always a plus. Now with the users ability to turn it off, it’s useless to Hollywood, so they will have to go find hardware OEM’s willing to disable that ability of users. Will they find some? Yeah probably, but will they find others who won’t, or will you have the ability to go to Intel, buy the chip as it is originally and build your own system? Yes! Again with the choices!

I don’t see where jumping all over Intel for introducing something that gives consumers options is called for. Believe it or not, there are plenty of reasons to buy a machine with anti-copying built-in to it and have it be unable to be turned off by users. Sounds pretty ideal for a workplace environment, doesn’t it? Never worry about your users making illegal software copies, or burning cd’s on company time, or even being able to get a virus, or crappy software that damages the system? Have it built that way by default, instead of having to spend time making configuration changes and then hoping users don’t know how to hack them anyway. Sounds pretty nice to most IT folks, I bet.

I think it’ll be awhile before we can say for sure whether this chip is a good thing or a bad thing for consumers. No sense in jumping on the judgement train before all the facts are out.

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