Of ground axes and long suicide notes
There's been an "analysis" floating around the 'net in the last few days from Auckland University's Peter Gutmann about how Windows Vista DRM will destroy computing as we know it. The article's penultimate soundbite comes in its Executive Executive Summary:
The Vista Content Protection specification could very well constitute the longest suicide note in history
Sensationalize much, Peter?
Though the article has spots and grains of truth as its base (many of the citations are from microsoft.com), the message is lost in the ranting FUD. Gutmann extracts worst-cases from the information he has, and completely fabricates other information in order to paint the most severe doomsday scenario he can think of. I've read this type of argument before, and it belongs more to the front page of slashdot or an internet forum than to be treated as any kind of formal analysis.
I will leave it to the MS folks who specialize in PR to give a line-by-line rebuttal, but Gutmann's main point has been seen before on postings about DRM. All content will stop playing, forcing users to buy new hardware and software, resulting in security breaches, reliability and performance nightmares, the destruction of the OSS community, vendor lock-in, mass hysteria, and dogs and cats living together. The biggest caveat Gutmann doesn't mention is that none of this doomsday scenario will ever come to pass on any given machine unless that machine is used to play so-called "premium" content. And not just any premium content, but content where the producer has specifically requested these restrictions by enabling certain control bits. The (expected) public backlash to such restrictions, as alluded to in Gutmann's document, is reason enough that said content will never surface in any significant way. A content producer that angers a significant portion of their customers can't expect to sell very much more content, and they know this. They may be misguided, greedy, and completely without a moral compass, but they're not stupid.
Gutmann also complains at length about HDCP revocation, condemning Microsoft for the evils of the technology, but he manages to completely miss one key point. It's not Microsoft's technology. Revocation is part of Intel's HDCP spec, and all Microsoft did was follow the spec so as not to get sued by half the industry for breaking it. What a lot of folks probably don't realize is that the PC is not where most people watch movies. Whether or not you can play Blu-Ray movies on a PC is really not going to make or break Hollywood. Most 'content' in the world is still being displayed on consumer electronics, and non-Microsoft CE companies are happily implementing HDCP without being flamed up and down the internet. The PC software industry doesn't have a lot of leverage here, and Microsoft's choice is to either implement the restrictions along with the rest, or get locked out of the party.
I'd bet that if Microsoft had taken the high ground here and refused to implement DRM, we'd instead see an army of bloggers decrying us for lack of HD media support. We can't win.