Vista and DRM

Quentin Stafford-Fraser (British web pioneer, who helped devise the first webcam) points to a frightening article by Peter Gutman about “Microsoft’s devotion to ‘content-protection'”. From Peter’s executive summary:

Windows Vista includes an extensive reworking of core OS elements in order to provide content protection for so-called “premium content”, typically HD data from Blu-Ray and HD-DVD sources. Providing this protection incurs considerable costs in terms of system performance, system stability, technical support overhead, and hardware and software cost. These issues affect not only users of Vista but the entire PC industry, since the effects of the protection measures extend to cover all hardware and software that will ever come into contact with Vista, even if it’s not used directly with Vista (for example hardware in a Macintosh computer or on a Linux server).

The ‘Executive Executive Summary makes things plain:

The Vista Content Protection specification could very well constitute the longest suicide note in history.

It’s very worthwhile reading. As Stafford-Fraser points out:

The good news is that you may be able to play Hollywood movies in high-definition on your Vista machine (as opposed to, say, on a dedicated DVD player). The bad news is that almost everything else about the PC platform will be made worse as a result.

John Naughton, author of the excellent A Brief History of the Future, has further comment:

The strange thing is that most of this DRM lunacy seems to have been created at the behest of the recording and movie industries. Microsoft is bigger than all of those companies combined…

Before Vista, I thought that anyone who willingly used a Microsoft
operating system was merely foolish; from now on, I think they will
have to be regarded as certifiable.

Like Chris Garrett, the spectre of Vista was what pushed me into switching to Ubuntu for my main OS – though my conversion was more successful than Chris’, who eventually went and bought a Mac.

The growth in number and sophistication of web services will further make the OS irrelevant. It’s perfectly possible to imagine a situation not too far in the future where all media, whether movies, music, tv, radio is all held online, accessible on demand. DRM won’t be an issue, because people can view the stuff they’ve paid for wherever they are. The sooner we get to that position, the better.

In the meantime, get yourself a quick, reliable and open operating system. And compared to Vista, Windows XP probably counts.

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