Monday, January 22, 2007

Gutmann Vista and DRM: Microsoft Response

Microsoft have posted a response to Peter Gutmann's cost analysis of the insane digital restrictions being built into Microsoft's new operating system, Vista. The response pened by Dave Marsh, a Lead Program Manager for video, basically confirms Gutmann's concerns, as the intro. demonstrates:

"Windows Vista includes content protection infrastructure specifically designed to help ensure that protected commercial audiovisual content, such as newly released HD-DVD or Blu-Ray discs, can be enjoyed on Windows Vista PCs. In many cases this content has policies associated with its use that must be enforced by playback devices. The policies associated with such content are applicable to all types of devices including Windows Vista PCs, computers running non-Windows operating systems, and standalone consumer electronics devices such as DVD players. If the policies required protections that Windows Vista couldn't support, then the content would not be able to play at all on Windows Vista PCs. Clearly that isn't a good scenario for consumers who are looking to enjoy great next generation content experiences on their PCs...

It's important to emphasize that while Windows Vista has the necessary infrastructure to support commercial content scenarios, this infrastructure is designed to minimize impact on other types of content and other activities on the same PC. For example, if a user were viewing medical imagery concurrently with playback of video which required image constraint, only the commercial video would be constrained -- not the medical image or other things on the user's desktop. Similarly, if someone was listening to commercial audio content while viewing medical imagery, none of the video protection mechanisms would be activated and the displayed images would again be unaffected...

The paper implies that Microsoft decides which protections should be active at any given time. This is not the case. The content protection infrastructure in Windows Vista provides a range of à la carte options that allows applications playing back protected content to properly enable the protections required by the policies established for such content by the content owner or service provider. In this way, the PC functions the same as any other consumer electronics device."

Another demonstration of the insanity of complex organisations and the restraints they place on the largely rational people who work for them. I'm sure Dave Marsh would much rather be focussing on delivering and loudly proclaiming fantastic new video functionality, than having to find explanations via carefully constructed language about third party contraints the company has accepted they need to build into the technology. I don't envy him that job in the slightest.

Update: Some of the comments at the end are really worth reading (though some are the usual Microsoft bashing for the sake of Microsoft bashing), like this one from a doctor pointing out the impact of lack of interoperability on patient care:

"Since when did you think that DRM would not apply to medical imaging. Speaking as a physician, we ALREADY have this problem. The medical image DICOM format has been split into various flavors by competing software vendors who do their best to make sure that you have to have THEIR viewer in order to see files saved in their version of the format.

Further competing hospitals are choosing not to install viewers that would allow MD's to look at films that were taken at their competition ( or perhaps their IT staff can't be bothered to install them -- either way the result is the same). This proprietary behavior is already hindering patient care."

Technically this isn't necessarily drm the doc is complaining about but lack of interoperability, (which drm will also impede).

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