So it’s now pretty much common knowledge that the Intel development build of OS X has been leaked. In fact there’s even a wiki documenting the progress made in getting it running on any old Intel box. It’s also been spreading around like wildfire that this build includes kernel support for Intelâ€™s DRM, and people are automatically up in arms about how Apple is in bed with the MPAA and RIAA and has become an evil controlling corporate entity much along the lines of what is often said about Microsoft.
I’d just like to point out that this is not necessarily the case. Yes, there is DRM built into the kernel. But I could have told you that before the developer build was leaked (without breaking any NDAs even). Through friends at Apple I already knew that my planned attempts to install OS X on my ThinkPad would be difficult, if not impossible. For one, OSx86 (as people seem to like calling it) requires SSE3. In addition, it performs hardware checks to make sure it’s running on Apple’s own dev boxes. My guess is that this is the purpose of the DRM code in the kernel. In fact I’d say it’s about 95% certain that this is the case.
Apple, as they always have, want to make sure that the Mac OS runs only on their hardware. Hence, they need some sort of hardware authentication. Intel chips provide exactly the sort of hardware authentication Apple needs in the form of TPM. So why would Apple do anything other than use the already existing functions of the hardware that do exactly what they want to be done? They wouldn’t.
DRM has been on Mac hardware for a very long time. If it weren’t Mac clones other than the very few that Apple authorized a couple years back would be all over the place. People would be using home-build PPC machines to run the Mac OS right now because they’d be able to, as they can with Windows and Linux, run their OS of choice on whatever cheap hardware they wanted with all the driver and compatibility issues that entails. Apple, as they always have, want to avoid this. And as they always have they are using DRM to do this. The only difference is that now DRM is considered to be unequivocally a bad thing because of the uses the content creators want to put it to.
I’ve seen a number of people say that if OS X still contains the TPM code when it ships they’ll abandon the Mac platform. This, as with the similar statements about the move to x86 altogether, strikes me as rather hasty. We don’t know if Apple is going to use DRM to do anything more sinister than what they’ve always used it for. We don’t really know anything about the release version of OSx86 at this point. What we do know is that Apple does and always has used DRM in one form or another and so it’s premature to assume that this new incarnation of that technology will be used any differently than the previous ones were.
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