Macintosh: Intel Inside! Now Improved With Delicious DRM

by Chris Seibold Aug 01, 2005

The story hit the ‘net with the all the raw fury of a F5 tornado reducing trailer park after trailer park to so much Formica and splinters of bad furniture. The event was, of course, the revelation that the developer builds of Apple’s forthcoming OS for the announced Macintels included kernel level DRM (Digital Rights Management). The specifics are acronym filled techno babble but go something as follows: TCPA/TPM DRM scheme that relies on an Infineon chip. Immediately Apple fans found their loyalties rent asunder: How to reconcile the unchanging pure snowy white goodness that IS Apple computer with the dark, fetid evil that comprises DRM schemes?

For some long time users the differences have already been deemed irreconcilable. Cory Doctorow, for example, argues passionately that such a move by Apple is a more than ample reason to jump off the good ship OS X and bob about in the sea of open source. Interestingly the article also illustrates, with a certain level of profound irony, why getting a tattoo (particularly of a corporate logo) may not be the best idea. Lessons about body modifications aside the article paints a fairly Orwellian picture of life on the OS X platform with Intel inside. The upshot of including a DRM, Doctorow argues, is that now Apple will have complete and unyielding control over all of your data. A few examples to illustrate: That spreadsheet you created to manage monthly cash flow? Accessible only via an Apple approved program. The small website you maintain on your Mac Mini extolling the virtues of well-designed toddler software? Any changes to can only come when you use a program blessed by Apple to update the site. In short, gone will be the days of generating data in one program and later manipulating data in an alternative application.

All of that sounds horribly oppressive and unduly complicated but it is necessary to temper the immediate outrage with a dose of realism. If Apple fully implements the DRM in the manner proposed by Mr. Doctorow then it won’t be necessary to consciously reject the Macintosh as a computing platform because Apple will be out of business in a matter of moments. On the other hand if Apple implements the DRM in a fairly transparent manner, in such a way that amounts to little more than preventing users from installing OS X on generic PCs, then the majority of users won’t mind or, in fact, even realize that the DRM is in place. Here it is necessary to note that Apple has copious amounts of experience with successful DRM deployment via the wildly successful iTunes music store so it would be logical to anticipate the same level of transparency of DRM in the operating system.

Of course being transparent to the majority of users isn’t the same as not being there at all. Imagine a six-foot high doorway, most folks can easily pass under the doorframe. However a NBA basketball player would find the doorway a severe imposition. Hence to proceed without a discussion of the underlying general misgivings about DRM on Intel heated Macs would be leaving half the pertinent discussion unaddressed. You can certainly make the argument that any DRM no matter how transparent or oppressive is simply a tool and it is the manner in which the tool is used that differentiates the “good” or “evilness” of the DRM scheme. An interesting and cogent argument indeed but when the end user shells out, say, $129 for the latest iteration of OS X they, usually, feel as though they own said program EULA (End User License Agreement) be damned.

Which brings up the most irksome point about the entire DRM conundrum. If a person purchases OS 10.9 Tabby and they wish to use the program in some unapproved manner, perhaps running it on a capable but generic PC box or as a drink coaster, is it really appropriate for Apple to tell that person just how they can use the program they just paid for? Remeber that the days of differing hardware where legitimate physical barriers existed that prevented running the Mac OS on Intel machines will be gone. The only reason, if the rumors are true, that you won’t be able to use OS X in the manner you see fit is because of an artificial requirement that conveys no legitimate benefit to the user.  Which is a philosophically troubling idea, it seems odd indeed to purposely treat all of your customers as though the only thing preventing them from becoming pirate OS X resellers is an extra chip on the motherboard. The aforementioned argumentation will surely cause some people to object that Apple has little choice other than to protect their system with some scheme owing to their dependence on hardware sales. More introspective folks, with a bit of thought, find that notion a bit trite. HP sells computers compelling enough that people actually purchase them, as does Dell. Hence it is reasonable to believe that Apple should be able to produce computers with hardware compelling enough that people will choose them over competing models.

The notion of head to head (finally) hardware competition aside the point remains: even if the DRM doesn’t impose on you in any tangible manner it is still present and the mere existence of the DRM is necessarily negative if there is not a benefit to the cattle consumers known as end users. Naturally if the addition of the DRM actually benefited consumers in a demonstrable manner many of the aforementioned objects are quelled. If, and this is not too hard to envision, the DRM strategy allows for a movie download service then there might be a tangible benefit to the consumer. Or to phrase the concept differently: If the inclusion of a DRM scheme increases customer’s access to legitimate content providers then it will be hard to see the DRM in a completely negative light. Any time your computer can access more data that is desirable, and if the DRM reassures producers of content that their product won’t be wildly misused in the outside world then that is a definite benefit.

Philosophical objections (after all users do click the EULA with every install) and possible benefits aside scorching Apple for including DRM before the extent of the “Management” is known seems a bit alarmist. It is much like noticing that someone has parked a backhoe on a vacant lot in your neighborhood and assuming that piece of Caterpillar heavy machinery is there to begin construction on a hog fat rendering plant. It may indeed be the case that HOG FAT R US is going in or, more likely, yet another overpriced single family dwelling will soon be constructed. With no way to discern Apple’s intentions with the inclusion of the DRM it is foolish, at this point, to assume the worst case scenario. Clearly the more moderate path of careful vigilance is the most appropriate response.


  • HP sells computers compelling enough that people actually purchase them, as does Dell. Hence it is reasonable to believe that Apple should be able to produce computers with hardware compelling enough that people will choose them over competing models.

    Ahem ... Dell sells computers with margins somewhere in the single digit area. They can only compensate for this by sheer volume. Do you really think it is feasable for Apple with their current market share (halo-effect or not) to go that route?

    Jens_T had this to say on Aug 02, 2005 Posts: 11
  • Well, from the figures put forth by Gartner and IDC, Apple outsells Sony and everyone else who is smaller than the fourth largest computer maker. Obviously there are still profits to be had selling PCs if you have single digit market share. A quick inspection of CompUSA reveals that Apple offerings seem to compete favorably on price with the stuff from Sony.

    Chris Seibold had this to say on Aug 02, 2005 Posts: 354
  • Most people understand that Apple will do something to keep OS X from being installed on PCs.  Loading OS X on a Dull is not going to happen.

    One key issue is that part of the revenue from every Mac sold goes to R&D, including OS X development.  With around half a billion sent on R&D each year Apple is not going to change their business plan for someone that wants a $129 “Mac” by putting it on a 4 year old PC.

    There is also the fact that trying to run a OS X on all of the millions of variations of PC components would be impractical - and expensive.

    It all gets down to a Mac will be a Mac, regardless of the chip inside - just as it has been since 1984.  It will have all of the same “limitations” every other Mac has had and will continue to deliver the same (or better) experience that we are getting today.

    KenJr had this to say on Aug 02, 2005 Posts: 1
  • The current Mac market share is with de facto DRM. Apple isn’t competing on pure hardware but with the additional benefits of OS X over Windows.

    Trying to compete with Dell on a pure hardware basis is going to be a disaster. Apple is smart enough not to try.

    DRM of some sort is required to prevent the destruction of Apple during the switch to Intel CPUs. People are overreacting to the fact that the DRM Apple is using is the Windows Palladium bugaboo. Would people be less outraged if it was an Apple designed chip on the motherboard?

    James Bailey had this to say on Aug 02, 2005 Posts: 7
  • Best Slashdot comment ever:

    “I hate those bastards! I knew they were going to try and sneak this crap past us! They were pla…oh wait, did you say Apple?

    Wow! Spectacular use of technology Steve! You’re my hero!”

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Aug 02, 2005 Posts: 2220
  • This is a non-story.  To run the Mac OS before, you had to have an Apple ROM chip on the motherboard… which is why no one could clone a Mac before Apple’s clone licensing deal in the 90s (or those “build your own clone” Macs in the early 90s required a user supplied Mac SE rom). 

    Since the ROM has been eliminated, Apple needs another way to check to make sure the “Intel PC” is a Macintel (much nicer sounding than Mactel, don’t you think?)... so they used Intel’s built-in DRM feature.

    Big Freakin’ Deal.

    A lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

    vb_baysider had this to say on Aug 02, 2005 Posts: 243
  • Though Apple does have this written in, It probably won’t be long before you see Microsoft do this too. Perhaps bonding Longhorns registration with the DRM. so that way you have to buy multiple copies of Longhorn or the family pack. and I know it’s called VISTA, but I like longhorn better.
    Apple may still back down, but I doubt it. Apple needs the hardware sales for it to survive.
    BTW, I figure I’ll end up call my new Mac Something other than Macintel. Most likely it will become the Mac + whatever chip intel uses. like Mac MX or something. It’s what we do with the G4 and G5 Right?

    lfhlaw had this to say on Aug 02, 2005 Posts: 1
  • This looks like just one of the tips of the “trusted computing iceberg” for which the blissfully unaware global consumer titanic is heading (and vice versa). Check the website of computer security expert Ross Anderson. He gives a riveting underwater view of this iceberg and its true dimensions:

    For now it is still us citizens who are deciding if this trusted computing & digital rights management technology that is currently in the pipelines will find its way into our computers. Our foresight will allow the majority to decide which way we all will go. Where we put our money is what will make the difference. Those responsible know this. This is why well informed and critical citizens are a thorn in the side of those who would like to gain control of our computers, our data, of the internet and who knows what else.

    What can we do? We can act like free and responsible citizens. We can question information that is presented to us, we can research, we can inform other people, we can learn from each other and develop a sense of solidarity. Working with legitimately acquired hardware, software and media content, we can create alternatives now. For instance, a dual-boot installation including a Mac OS & Gentoo Linux or Yellow Dog might be a first step (if you want to try something besides Mac then check Suse Linux – it’s really cool). Keeping old hardware in safe custody is also a good idea.

    Open source can work with manufacturers of clean hardware and can handle the intellectual property threat. Each one of us can create demand for clean hardware, open standards and open source.

    We are the people, we are the customers, we are the users, we are the internet! If a sufficient number of citizens develops a common consciousness then this will be the most powerful lobby imaginable. A lobby of citizens for citizens ensures that we all continue to be able and allowed to freely exchange ideas, opinions and information through the internet, and in general.


    Ross Anderson’s Website at University Of Cambridge

    Wikipedia – Trusted Computing Group (TCG/TCPA)

    Wikipedia - Digital Rights Management

    Against TCPA

    Trusted Computing Group – Official Website

    Trusted Computing Group – Current Members

    The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)

    Privacy International

    Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

    SCO - Microsoft - Linux controversies

    Groklaw – SCO lawsuits made understandable for non-lawyers

    Jul 2005: Why Bill Gates Wants 3,000 New Patents

    Jul 2005: Intel to cut Linux out of the content market

    Sep 2003: Sun Vice President – Open Standards Matter More,10801,84804,00.html?from=story_picks

    Mike Godwin, EFF: “I worry about my child and the Internet all the time, even though she’s too young to have logged on yet. Here’s what I worry about. I worry that 10 or 15 years from now, she will come to me and say ‘Daddy, where were you when they took freedom of the press away from the Internet?’”

    wildebeest had this to say on Aug 02, 2005 Posts: 2
  • You seem to be ignoring Cory Doctorow’s main point: that other apps will be able to use the built-in DRM chip to ensure that even files created in ‘open’ formats will only be readable by that same app (or its brethren from the same manufacturer). Imagine if you created a plain text document in (say) Word and then the person you sent it to found it wouldn’t open in anything except Word. I don’t think anyone doubts (or worries) that the OS will be tied to the hardware, espec as that may be done in a variety of ways, of which TPM DRM is only one.

    dougz had this to say on Aug 02, 2005 Posts: 1
  • Well Dougz I think I covered that. If that hapens Apple is done. Though I remain mystified by what CD’s definition of “open” actually is. Word is not an open format so just what is he yattering about?

    As for the points by wildebeest I would tend to agree, nothing will happen without acceptance and there is no reason to accept an oppresive use of DRM. Though I am disturbed by Mike Godwin’s quote, I mean honestly it is unlikely, if not impossible, that the freedom of the press will be taken away only from the ‘net. I’d worry more about my kid asking me “where were you you when they killed the first amendment?” After all the ‘net is not the be all and end all. By the way the answer is “I dunno, just busy I guess” Truthfully if they only place I can express my rights is on the internet then they really aren’t rights at all.

    Chris Seibold had this to say on Aug 02, 2005 Posts: 354
  • wildebeast makes some good points about DRM, but we don’t actually know yet that’s where Apple is headed.  This is why I think the Slashdot fury is so overwrought…

    To conclude that we will get all the worst affects of DRM just because Apple doesn’t want OS X to run on a generic PC, is a leap in logic that even Superman would be hard-pressed to make.

    However, we do need to be careful to whom we pay our dollars. This is the other reason I don’t use Microsoft applications (unless work forces me), shop at Walmart or get gas at Exxon. Any company that uses some kind of strong-arms tactics (whether it’s the kind of worst-case DRM uses described here, unfair hiring practices, payola to city goverments to get your superstore built, or ultimatums to PC makers not to sell alternative operating systems), I try to avoid those companies like the plague. Apple isn’t the squeakiest clean corporate citizen, but it hasn’t done anything serious enough (yet) to make me seek an alternative.

    We consumers actually do have a lot of power if we vote with our dollars, but it does take those of us who are more familiar with the deeper issues to explain them to our friends who don’t pay attention to technology the way we do.

    I’d argue that the 4th Amendment is in the most danger at the moment. Write your Congressmen… Extending Patriot Act provisions that weaken our privacy rights are being debated as we speak.

    vb_baysider had this to say on Aug 03, 2005 Posts: 243
  • Chris is right. It’s of course not only about the internet. Information Technology more and more interpenetrates all areas and aspects of our lives. Home, business, industry, traffic, science, military etc. etc. - computers are omnipresent and that is why TC/DRM will be so too (if we let it happen).

    How does TC/DRM actually benefit the consumer? Great question indeed. Why buy, if there are no substantial benefits including the absence of severe drawbacks??? I really wonder why it should be advantageous for me that the producers of my hardware and software have root access to my computer and data. How do I benefit from someone being able to prevent me from accessing my data with an application other than the one I used to create it?

    A competitive market guarantees that consumers have the choice among the most innovative, creative, exiting products and solutions at a fair price. In what ways does TC/DRM promote competition, innovation and creativity for the benefit of the consumer? How will TC/DRM affect free choice and the prices of what is left to choose from? It looks like in truth it will be TCG and the content industry who benefit from TC/DRM while locked-in consumers keep paying more for less. Why would anybody buy anything with TC/DRM in it if he does not get really profound answers for why TC/DRM, closed standards and closed source is a better choice than clean hardware, open standards and open source.

    Advantages of Open Source Software

    Open source has forever changed the software industry and is leading the way into a new era. It is changing the fundamentals of how organizations evaluate, purchase and deploy information systems. Certain entities seem unwilling or unable to develop new business models and to keep up with the times. That’s why they think they need power and control over consumers.

    vb_baysider says that most of us are knowledgeable about technology and able to see what’s happening. This fact alone puts responsibility for our unsuspecting friends on us. Our friends might be dealing with other things in life and don’t even have a chance to recognize what’s happening. We are more powerful if we start spreading the word together. Each of us is able to summarize the essence of what we know and make our voice be heard. One approach might be to identify appropriate places on the web, adapt your message to your audience and post it. Send your message to your friends and be ready to address their questions and concerns.

    No question, chicken-hearted alarmists are a pain in the neck. As Chris suggested, a path of watchful awareness and careful vigilance, in-depth assessment and appropriate action is much more effective and credible. This way we launch an avalanche which will create an unstoppable force - a force that will make the difference that we want to make.

    wildebeest had this to say on Aug 03, 2005 Posts: 2
  • This is exactly, which is not only a reason to switch on to free products, but which already got me to switch, so that my iMac now runs a Gentoo-Linux with KDE as base.

    I also wrote a blog about my way from Apple to Linux, so if you are interested, feel free to check by at

    Song: Beware of that Fruit (Broken Apple Heart)
    Filed under: Broken Apple Heart — January 31, 2006 @ 1:41 pm
    (What do you think, why Macs no longer Smile?)
    I was an Apple User
    and loyal to the core,
    But one grey day I realized
    what made my heartache soar,
    They want to make the big bucks now
    and want no one to see,
    That ever more surveillance
    takes the Users rights as fee.

    I was a little Bugger, when I saw the first of Mac,
    Discovered there then Shufflepuck and all the time came back,
    It belonged to parents friends then, but my will it showed its grip,
    And when they tried to take “My Mac”, their efforts meant a zip.

    My third Mac, it was bigger, not so cute, but lovely, too,
    And to my greatest pleasure, I owned the smiling goo,
    I was a big fanatic, Apple was it all the time,
    And when I got to talking, all my friends could do was wine.

    Then came the time of MacOSX, it was the thing for me,
    The beta was the slowest beast, but with it I felt free,
    I worked and it grew faster and I never bid the time,
    And every single Update pushed the speed another line.

    But then they made the panther and it hated my old Mac,
    And though I bought a new one, my belief did not come back,
    Then came OSX on intel, my belief lost every race,
    Apple takes “trusted computing”, hits me squarely in the face.

    Now my Mac here owns a Linux and Apple makes no gain,
    Since for my precious income I want freedom and no chain,
    So I switch on to a Linux, MacOSX I use the least,
    with those lovely little penguins I take midsummers feast.

    Some days Im feeling sad and my parting brings me pain,
    But without freedom for their Users, all their genius is in vain,
    When I’d come back to Apple, I will tell them with delight,
    To get me back they must adhere to freedom and my rights,
    They must adhere to freedom and to every Users right.
    - Arne Babenhauserheide ( )
    - License: creative commons, attribution-sharealike-noncommercial:

    ArneBab had this to say on Feb 04, 2006 Posts: 1
  • Page 1 of 1 pages
You need log in, or register, in order to comment