How AMD hopes to turn things around - by adding DRM directly to the CPU

How AMD hopes to turn things around - by adding DRM directly to the CPU

Summary: It's no secret that AMD has hit turbulent times. In a price war against Intel which is ten times larger, AMD has come off the worse for wear. But how does AMD plan to turn things around? Well, it seems that one idea they have is to add DRM directly to the CPU and limit what users have access to.

TOPICS: Processors

It's no secret that AMD has hit turbulent times.  In a price war against Intel which is ten times larger, AMD has come off the worse for wear.  But how does AMD plan to turn things around?  Well, it seems that one idea they have is to add DRM directly to the CPU and limit what users have access to.

This DRM will control what users have access to.  In short, it will block unauthorized access to the frame buffer.  This means that unauthorized users (that's you, the people who will be buying these chips) won't be able to save the contents of the display to a file unless the content owner (companies such as Microsoft, Apple, Sony Pictures and so on) gives you permission.  And given the enthusiasm that most of these companies have embraced DRM with as of late, what are the chances that they are going to give you permission to do that?

The grail for content providers is the ability to have a totally secure pathway for media from start (their servers, DVD discs, HD-DVD, Blu-ray and so on) to finish (the end point, namely your PC).  Software mechanisms are proving to be unreliable so why not take a different tact and have the DRM built directly into the CPU.  These mechanisms will be harder to bypass than software restrictions and will also apply to all operating systems, not just the latest releases.

Also, don't be mistaken in thinking that this kind of DRM will apply only to video.  Audio, games and even documents could be protected using this mechanism.  It's also being touted as a way for companies to make it harder for data to leak outside the organization. (Although I don't by this, since what's valuable in most companies are the ideas and future plans, which is low bandwidth information that's easily passed on in a phone conversation. Also, companies aren't all that happy applying DRM locks to their information because it can lead to a situation where they are locked out of their own data.).

Now I know that readers of tech sites like ZDNet will be unwilling to pay for CPUs that limit their ability to do what they want, but the problem is that the tech-savvy are a small minority and the decisions made by the tech-illiterate (if you can call them decisions) will eventual destroy the choices for us all.  There are only two major CPU manufacturers to choose from.  There is no "open source" CPU that we can turn to when our hands have been tied.

With each generation of PC it's clear the title of "owner" is shifting from the person who handed over the cash for it to the companies who want to deliver content to it.  And DRM is only part of the problem.  You also have the hackers and all those craplets to contend with.  Might be easier to go back to scratching messages in the dirt with sticks.

Who's computer is it anyway?  I think the time for a real debate on this is long overdue.

Topic: Processors

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  • Way to win customers! Jeez.....

    I see they are going to try the Media-Company-Ass-Kissing method of gaining providence.

    I thought Microsoft had patented this idea?
    • You'd almost think AMD was trying to go out of business (NT)

    • They did, but...

      [i]I thought Microsoft had patented this idea?[/i]

      They did, but the EU ruled that MS have to give the idea away for free. }:)
      Hallowed are the Ori
    • I wish I could remember the name of that Jack-as*

      Who was posting on these blogs several months ago how AMD was not going to feel the pinch when core 2 came in, that it would be Intel who would have to bit the bullet and go broke and end up in bankruptcy. It was plain clear cut economic logic that virtually dictated that would never happen; the dynamics of the industry and market clearly established that neither were likely to go bankrupt but AMD would bear the worst of the brunt without question.

      No wonder people get sick to death of the biased partisan nonsense some people spew around here. So many times I have seen what should have been a rational person otherwise spout off such utter nonsense that you have to wonder if they are even serious its so ridiculous. (Mike Cox aside)

      In this case AMD was the much smaller company, and it was Intel's old line of processors they were discounting, they discounted them prior to AMD, they were shipping fewer units for weeks prior to the price drop, they dropped prices on their CPU's well below what AMD could and they were getting ready to follow up with the highly profitable Core 2 Duo to start generating some serious revenue again.

      AMD on the other hand had to get ready to start dropping prices on what was going to be their current line of desktop CPU's for some time to come, and that in itself is a costly problem because they obviously had lots of stock as that was the only line of product they had for some time to come and further, there was no replacement product, like the Core 2 Duo to start capturing huge sectors of the market to start making up for losses on the reduced prices of their current line.

      What only made the situation worse, and this is plainly so, you don't have to be an economics major to see this, AMD is a significantly smaller competitor, so any negative hits they were about to take in the market place would be a bigger percentage hit then the same hit on Intel. Its not rocket science. What also should have been clear, and was abundantly clear to anyone I talked to in the computer component retail sales business was that Intel dropped prices first and all kinds of people were spending their cash on very very cheap Intel P$ and D CPU's for weeks before the Core 2 Duo came out and AMD prices started dropping. Many of the people who would have otherwise purchased the cheap Intel's, or had been thinking of picking up the much better AMD's hung on to their money once they heard the potential of the soon to be released Core 2 Duo. The whole situation was clearly disastrous for AMD, and from so many angles obviously so, you would have to be either joking or a complete idiot to make a claim that Intel was the company going to suffer worse then AMD.

      People should make at least a realistic attempt to get real about things. None of this means AMD didn't make the best line of processors for quite a time there, they did. Those same CPU's are still a fantastic purchase for the money too. And it may come to pass that AMD will produce the best line of CPU's again, but to make a claim that they were going to come out of this leg of the race financially more stable then Intel is the claim of a biased jackass and nothing else.

      Now the real scary thing is that AMD thinks its smart to join into the anti-consumer side of the DRM war? It would be a move like that that could have Intel smelling blood. Its a fact that people will pay more for more, you could actually sell a slightly slower CPU for more cash if it was "DRM HEADACHE" free compared to the competition, but try to sell a slightly slower CPU with all the DRM headaches available right on the chip and you are talking about mass producing store shelf ornaments, not CPU's that will be purchased by the public.
  • "Who's computer is it anyway?"

    Regardless of what Microsoft, the Media Companies, the Hardware companies, and the other overbearing Corporates want to think, it is MY computer. It is my hard-earned cash that paid for it.

    If they want to supply someone all the hardware, software, support, etc... for free then they would be free to do what they want to control it.

    But that's not the case, and I would never accept it anyway.

    They can all kiss my butt.
    • Wrong!

      It is theirs to do with as they wish. If you elect to BUY it AS IS that is your one and only choice. Hint, you don't get to design your new car from Chevy either..
      • not all theirs

        I bought every part to my computer, its all MINE. No loans or payments to make. Fair use was a term that was once used but with ever enduring DRM crap our choices to transfer legal media is being depleted, and by the way YOU can configure a car from chevy and every other dealership. Its called configure and build on their websites
        • Bzzzt, wrong again

          Yes, you buy WHAT THEY OFFER for sale. Don't like the product, buy a different one.

          Tell ya what, go to your chevy dealer and insist on a Ford 351 and see what happens.
          • How many time must it be say

            A car cannot be compare to a computer PERIOD. But seem that people (with no valid argument) continue to use it. DRM is bad for everyone and any company that plan such an anti-consumer device does not deserve to stay in business. AMD made a bad move by buying inferior graphic card maker ATI. And now they are going, for the rest of their (very short i hope), live in the pocket of the most dangerous criminal organization the MPAA. Game over AMD. You are no longer a legitimate company. You did not get it when Sony started to fall because they infected countless computers with Virus(DRM is a VIRUS) from music CD. Now you want to put Virus in Hardware...

            Time to go back to Intel and help sink the now part of the Digital Mafia, AMD
          • PFttt....

            Joe average user doesn't know or care. DRM is here to stay.
          • Yes and No.

            Of course DRM is here to stay, the analogous counterparts in other markets have always existed in some form or another and so they are likely to always exist. In some form or other. But, the question is is it ever likely to work any better then it has up to now. NOPE.

            I'm not going to make the long argument here, lets just say that a logical well thought out examination of the history of DRM and its predecessors has shown its never been able to do more or less then what its doing now. The problem the media industry has now is that sharing has become easier and they just cant do anything on the DRM side at all to counter the new dynamics of the situation. And guess what, as time passes and technology increases even more information and media sharing will increase and DRM will not, its going to say, in relative terms about the same. One day it will become inconsequential. It will still be being attempted of course but it will be pretty damn useless at that point.
      • If you really believe that...

        You truly have thrown in the towel. What a damned shame...

        Thinking like this is exactly why citizens/consumers are losing control of their freedom and right to decide.
      • Your wrong on this as how does that equate to ownership?

        Obviously, you don't get to design your own car from Chevy as they don't offer this option as it is not a cost effective choice FOR THEM, (yet some companies do, and it cost you 6 figures).

        If I buy a PC It is mine to do with what I wish. If I want to mod it, I can. I can replace any chip on any board in that thing and there isn't a darn thing they can do to stop me.

        How is it buying a "pre-designed" product give the manufacturer the "right to do with as they wish"?

        I guess the person who desined and built my house those many years ago has the right to come in and modify it anyway they want, and at any time, as "I bought it as is".
        John Zern
        • If you want to replace the CPU,

          No one is stopping you, but that doesn't mean you get to dictate how AMD (or Intel, or IBM, or Transmeta, or Sun, or HP) makes them.
          • You're right, but...

            "That doesn't mean you get to dictate how AMD (or Intel, or IBM, or Transmeta, or Sun, or HP) makes them."

            You're absolutely right - I can't tell them how to design their chips, but I can sure as he** decide whether to buy from them!

            I've always preferred AMD over Intel, but I would never buy one of their proposed DRM chips.
          • Here Here!!!

            I used AMD exclusively since the 80's, but IF they in fact add DRM to the CPU, I'll be forced to go to Intel. If they all toss it [DRM] into the mix, my system will be frozen in time and I'd be forced to buy replacement parts before they all sell out! Consumer must learn that cash talks. If they don't get any, they may re-think a bad decision...
          • But that wasn't what he was talking about

            You basiclly said that BitTwiddler was wrong as it the manufactures who have final say over what you get to do do with your computer (as in ownership).

            The fact that you have no say in design of the chip is irrellevent as that does not equal "ownership".

            Of course you can only buy what they offer. Or you don't have to buy at all. It's like saying McDonalds controls what you eat as they won't make you a Whopper. But then again, if you want a Whopper, you go to Burger King.

            The fact that you buy what a manufacturer offers goes without saying.
            John Zern
        • THIS I've got to see...

          [b]If I buy a PC It is mine to do with what I wish. If I want to mod it, I can. I can replace any chip on any board in that thing and there isn't a darn thing they can do to stop me. [/b]

          Ok... I'd LOVE to see how you can stick say, a brand new Core 2 Duo chip on a Socket AM2 motherboard - and make it work.

          I'll tell you now - it ain't worth the hassle even trying it. By the time you've replaced the socket, the BIOS and all the other chips that work with the AMD chip, you no longer have a socket AM2 motherboard, but an Intel based board. In other words, you might as well save yourself the hassle of reinventing the wheel and just buy yourself a board that will work from the get go.
      • I don't drive a new car...

        from Chevy or anyone else for precisely the same reasons. I drive an eighteen year old 4Runner. New car designs are as bloated as new OS offerings. Too much stuff designed into the vehicle that are for safety that I don't agree with. Blackboxes are now part new car designs. They record speed, acceleration, braking, steering and if your seat belt is fastened.

        Which it has to be or the car will beep incessantly until you do. But I don't quite "believe" in seat belts. My Mom has been "T boned" twice into the driver's door (in the last 5 years) because of red light runners. Both times, her lack of a seat saved her life. The second time, she "woke" up in the passenger seat with a cop asking who was driving because the drvier seat and driver area were completely crushed. My uncle's life was saved in a similar event before I was born.

        But we aren't allowed that choice now because it's been decided for us that we must wear a seat belt. I am not interested in having "society" or government make all of my choices because they "know" what's best for me. Nor am I interested in computer hardware or software that does same or even monitors my choices to make sure I conform to their expectations.

        If these trends continue, as they undoubtedly will, I'll be looking into the THX1138 method...
        • And if that is your choice,

          good on ya.