The Gibson & Laporte podcast, Security Now, has spent the last few episodes discussing the ramifications of the new content protection schemes implemented in Windows Vista. The discussion centers around the assertion by Microsoft that without these protections in Vista, there would be no way to play next generation content such as High-Def DVD formats on the Windows platform. Industry analysis question whether this is the case. And, as the debate rages on, I can only wonder what this will mean for content options afforded to users of the upcoming release of Mac OS X 10.5.
Security Now has been discussing in detail a report written by Peter Gutmann, a long time security researcher. The white paper was an analysis of the content protections implemented in the recently released Windows Vista. Gutmann looked at the Vista protections from an interesting prospective. He wondered what the cost of these protections would be for the end user. For example, the protections are extensive, and those protections and their services require system resources. The use of those resources cost the system in terms of memory and processor overhead. And, given that not all users have a need for next generation content, it seems unnecessary for these protections to hinder the performance of systems that don’t utilize the new medias.
Gutmann used Microsoft’s publicly available whitepapers detailing the technology to make some very interesting assertions. The details of which are unfortunately beyond the scope of this story. Microsoft’s response to the white paper is what really concerns me. Essentially, according to the extensive information discussed in the Security Now podcast, Microsoft simply explains that without these protections there could be no next generation media support on the personal computing platform. Some argue that Microsoft has enough pull in the market that they could have opposed the protections and won the battle with content creators. A 90% market share would be something substantial to contend with. But since Microsoft put up no such fight we will never know.
The real question is what this will mean for the upcoming release of OS X 10.5. Next generation content will be a central focus of the operating system release that no doubt will include support for High-Def video content. With Microsoft already caving to the content creators, does this mean the Mac OS will have to make the same concessions? Or will Apple’s lesser market share be our salvation and allow Mac users more open access to new media content? It seems hard to believe that content creators including the worlds largest move studios could be completely overlooking Apple’s market share.
Apple has been tightlipped concerning the feature set of the upcoming OS release. As a result we have no idea what might be happening behind the scenes. The content protections built into Vista are implemented at such a low level that security experts are voicing concerns as to how the protections will effect overall system performance and stability. For now, we can only wait and wonder if similar concerns will be brought to light with the pending release of Apple’s own next generation operating system.
Unfortunately, the specifics of the new content protections are far beyond the scope of this story, and me as a writer. For more information, please checkout the recent Security Now episodes 73, 74, 75, and 77. They do an amazing job of detailing the technology at a technical level, explaining it in layman’s terms, and even go so far as to interview Peter Gutmann and explain Microsoft’s response to Gutmann’s white paper.
For those unfamiliar with the Security Now podcast, it is an outstanding weekly show that details just about everything anyone has ever wanted to know about security, encryption and networking. Check it out at twit.tv.