Intel duly unveiled its long awaited and widely trailed Sandy Bridge chips at its CES 2011 press conference yesterday (Wednesday). The story was exactly what we expected, in terms of (a) delivering more powerful new versions of the Core iX range*, and (b) including HD graphics on the processor. What hadn't been unexpected -- though it did leak out before the launch -- was the new Intel Insider system. This is supposed to make PCs a "trusted platform" for the delivery of high definition movies.
Kevin Tsujihara, president of Warner Bros Home Entertainment Group, turned up to say that the extra security will enable the company to make HD movies available on the Sandy Bridge platform. Intel also demonstrated Best Buy's CinemaNow as an example service.
Intel followed up with a blog post to deny that this constituted a DRM (Digital Rights Management) system. The post by Nick Knupffer says:
"Intel Insider is a service that enables consumers to enjoy premium Hollywood feature films streamed to their PC in high quality 1080P high definition. Currently this service does not exist because the movie studios are concerned about protecting their content, and making sure that it cannot be stolen or used illegally. So Intel created Intel Insider, an extra layer of content protection. Think of it as an armoured truck carrying the movie from the Internet to your display, it keeps the data safe from pirates, but still lets you enjoy your legally acquired movie in the best possible quality. This technology is built into the new Intel chips and will become even more important once wireless display technology like Intel’s WiDi become more popular, as it would prevent pirates from stealing movies remotely just by snooping the airwaves. WiDi enables you to wirelessly beam video to your big screen TV easily and in HD."
Some have speculated that "geeks" might rebel and boycott the whole idea, and there might be a few. The real question is who controls the use of the Core chip's identifier. If it's only used for HD movies, this won't bother anyone who doesn't stream or download HD movies. But if a huge advertising company could use it to enhance its web tracking system -- Google, for example -- then little if any privacy would remain.
However, I seem to recall previous kerfuffles about the idea of TPMs (Trusted Platform Modules) built into PCs, and the content protection system used by HDMI, but both blew over fairly quickly.
Also, in the end, people want faster computers and the PC industry needs the money. Intel's chief executive Paul Otellini said that the new Sandy Bridge chips would be designed into more than 500 desktop and laptop PCs, and sales would generate $125 billion for PC makers this year.
Numerous companies have already announced Sandy Bridge PCs, and four-core versions will ship this month. Dual core versions will soon follow. After that, we can expect systems with more than four cores.