Friday, December 22, 2006

Cost analysis of Vista DRM

Peter Gutmann at the University of Auckland has been doing a cost analysis of the digital restrictions being built into Microsoft's new operating system, Vista. It makes fascinating reading, not only because it is informed by Microsoft insiders but because it demonstrates how large complex organisations can put phenomenal efforts into processes created by ridiculous decisions. Thanks to Ian Brown via the ORG list for the link and as Ian says the whole thing is completely insane. Sample:

"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). This document analyses the cost involved in Vista's content protection, and the collateral damage that this incurs throughout the computer industry.

Executive Executive Summary

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


This document looks purely at the cost of the technical portions of Vista's ncontent protection. The political issues (under the heading of DRM) have been examined in exhaustive detail elsewhere and won't be commented on further, unless it's relevant to the cost analysis. However, one important point that must be kept in mind when reading this document is that in order to work, Vista's content protection must be able to violate the laws of physics,
something that's unlikely to happen no matter how much the content industry wishes it were possible. This conundrum is displayed over and over again in the Windows content-protection specs, with manufacturers being given no hard-and-fast guidelines but instead being instructed that they need to display as much dedication as possible to the party line. The documentation is peppered
with sentences like:

"It is recommended that a graphics manufacturer go beyond the strict letter of the specification and provide additional content-protection features, because this demonstrates their strong intent to protect premium content".

This is an exceedingly strange way to write technical specifications, but is dictated by the fact that what the spec is trying to achieve is fundamentally impossible. Readers should keep this requirement to display appropriate levels of dedication in mind when reading the following analysis"


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