DRM: Three dirty letters you won't hear in a CES keynote

Summary:Doc Searls pans Paul Otellini's CES presentation of Intel's ViiV for the media cartel it's bound to create: Some of us (myself included) have been concerned about the DRM capabilities reportedly built into ViiV, but in his presentation Otellini made clear that Viiv has been in development with Microsoft, as a new Wintel platform for home entertainment...It's being presented as the Complete Replacement for TV....

Doc Searls pans Paul Otellini's CES presentation of Intel's ViiV for the media cartel it's bound to create:

Some of us (myself included) have been concerned about the DRM capabilities reportedly built into ViiV, but in his presentation Otellini made clear that Viiv has been in development with Microsoft, as a new Wintel platform for home entertainment...It's being presented as the Complete Replacement for TV...."A chance for broadcasters and rights-holders to extend their franchise"...This is an Intel-Microsoft story. All about Windows Media, but barely mentioning it....What about non-OEMs? Good luck. This is a juggernaunt.

With apologies to Doc (and in the name of transparency), the editor in me changed the order of those last two sentences.  It doesn't change the context and instead only makes for a much clearer picture. I couldn't agree more with Doc (and be sure to read the bottom of this post where I repeat the OEM question in graver terms).  So much so that I created a special category here on Between the Lines for that unstoppable media juggernaut

As far as Wintel or Apptel (Apple +Intel: Doc says Apple will undoubtedly leverage ViiV too.  Agreed.) becoming the central platform for home entertainment, this audiophile still thinks they have a long way to go.  Just go check out a McIntosh amplifier.  No, not Apple's Macintosh.  The real Mcintosh.  Real home entertaintment  requires real sound which requires heavy metal the likes of which today's computer's don't have.  If they did, they'd be triple or maybe quadruple the size and weight, draw significantly more power, and cost at least $5,000.  Even more for centralized entertainment where you need something like a Xantech MRC88 that can simultaneously route both audio and video to multiple rooms, each of which is tuned into a different content source (cable box, digital audio server, DVD player, etc.) and each of which requires significant channel wattage to get sound that's half-way decent out of your speakers. 

Will Apptel and Wintel will get there? Eventually.  And DRM is what buys them time against the boutique entertainment gear makers who'll be driven out of business by patent driven royalty structures or even worse, refusing to even give those gear makers access to the DRM technology needed to playback all future content in the first place as Apple is doing to companies like Escient and Sonos (also see Sonos responds to Declaration of InDRMpendence) that are innovating circles around the larger slower 800 lb. gorillas.  For example, at CES, Sonos just one-upped its already inventive wireless mesh network based solution with its new ZonePlayer ZP80 (makes Apple's AirTunes look like a toy).  In a bit of news, that new gear supports Apple's lossless codec, but not Apple's FairPlay DRM (net net: iTunes purchased audio content won't work on Sonos' gear).  Perhaps now the folks at McIntosh Labs are wishing they stood up for their trademark 20 years ago.  

One final sidenote: In his story, Doc writes:

The best screens you can get in the next year will be 1080p full-HD displays. And the best source of "content" (man, I hate that word) for those screens will be high-definition camcorders. Fiber to the home is still a rarity, and even high-def digital cable and satellite aren't due to deliver 1080-grade resolution. Meaning the best source of the best-looking stuff will be: ourselves.

Meanwhile, just in case the bandwidth is there, perhaps ATI's OCUR CableCARD-compliant HDTV card (also debuted at CES) will be a market winner.  But buyer beware.  Before Microsoft was allowed to support CableLab's CableCARD specification (CableLabs is a consortium of cable television companies), it had to guarantee closure of the proverbial analog hole through which content pirates often sneak. Enter -- you guessed it -- Microsoft's DRM.  This of course goes back to the elephant in the room question that Doc asked: "What about non-OEMs?" As far as I can tell, there's basically no way for Linux to support something like CableCARD because there is no official DRM that's built into Linux and there's no one that can sign (on behalf of Linux) on such a guarantee's dotted line.

Topics: CES

About

David Berlind was fomerly the executive editor of ZDNet. David holds a BBA in Computer Information Systems. Prior to becoming a tech journalist in 1991, David was an IT manager.

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