Intel's East Fork to cut Linux out of the digital media content market

Posted on Tuesday, July 19 2005 @ 9:41 CEST by Thomas De Maesschalck
Intel's East Fork will come out early next year and will be launched with a massive marketing campaign but Charlie from The Inquirer already wants to thrash it, claiming the platform will be a failure because of its DRM. The first version will be a 64-bit dual-core Smithfield Pentium 4 with Lakeport and ICH7-DH chipsets. You'll also need a Serial ATA HDD with NCQ and Intel HD Audio and Microsoft Media Center Edition 2006 (MCE 2006).

It will be aimed at media server PCs but the first version will featuring the Smithfield certainly won't be quiet as the Smithfield CPU uses 130W. Fortunately the company will introduce the Yonah a bit later which will drop power consumption to only 31W. This processor will lack 64-bit, but I guess this isn't really a problem as 64-bit isn't really widespread yet.

One of the key featured is the East Fork (EF) platform driver. One of its usages will be to transcode content on the fly. The official statement is that it will transcode content that's not supported by Digital Media Adaptor into a supported format. And currently the only supported format is Microsoft's .WMV format.

But the real problem of East Fork will be its Secure Premium Content Module (SPCM).
The problem is something called the Secure Premium Content Module (SPCM), and its reason for being is to decrypt MS DRM fast and 'securely'. It is an open question as to how this security benefits the user though. Anything other than Microsoft DRM is listed as 'possible' for SPCM, but as now, the list of additional supported DRM providers is zero. The transcoding will basically add DRM to anything that touches the box, preventing you from using any fair use rights, and preventing legal sharing. This strategy worked well enough to turn the mighty Sony into an also ran in the MP3 player market.
One of the good things of EF will be Energy Lake, an instant-on technology to boost boot-up times. However, EF may become a failure because of its extensive DRM features which reduce the user experience.
Back to EF though, there are a lot of problems, and it mainly starts with exclusive support for Microsoft DRM. There is no other, and as of the last time I checked, there will not be. Intel refuse to comment on unannounced products, but others have told me there is nothing but Microsoft DRM.
The journalists concludes Intel is selling out to Microsoft for co-advertising dollars by basically handing all digital media content over to Microsoft controlled and Microsoft licensed schemes. This means Linux would become forbidden for those wanting to watch a movie legally on their computer as the US laws prevent you to circumvent protection mechanisms like DRM. This article is definitely worth a read. Check it out at The Inquirer. Last week I already posted concerns about Longhorn after reading an article regarding DRM features in Longhorn which will possibly require us to buy a new monitor to view DRM protected movies.

About the Author

Thomas De Maesschalck

Thomas has been messing with computer since early childhood and firmly believes the Internet is the best thing since sliced bread. Enjoys playing with new tech, is fascinated by science, and passionate about financial markets. When not behind a computer, he can be found with running shoes on or lifting heavy weights in the weight room.

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