For the first time I’m genuinely worried about Apple’s switch to Intel. In an article on Ars Technica Hannibal writes about Apple’s potential use of LeGrande (LeGrande is Intel’s hardware based DRM). Now, it’s quite obvious that Apple will do everything in it’s power to prevent OS X from running on non-Apple branded hardware. iDVD won’t install unless you have a DVD burner attached. Apple has a long history of doing things like that, and it in and of itself isn’t bad. Most people don’t need iDVD if they don’t have a burner, Apple operating systems should run on Apple hardware. And naturally so.
What I didn’t think of before is that Intel also makes an ARM processor with a LeGrande implementation. ARM is the processor architecture that powers the iPod, Airport and Airport Express. What if, and I’m just talking crazy here Apple converts iTMS DRM from FairPlay to LeGrande? That will immediately cut out little beauties like jHymn from removing the encryption on songs. Apple is also positioning itself to become a big time video distributor like it is with music now. Apple will no doubt very soon take on Bockbuster and Netflicks directly with regard to video. Could it be that while there definitely were problems with IBM’s ability to deliver on a cool running 3.0Ghz G5 another real big push to move to Intel came from the RIAA in order to make Apple use another more draconian form of DRM? LeGrande even has the ability to make ripped music only playable on approved devices. Combine that with CDDB and you’ll have an iTunes version that imports protected AAC files from any commercially released CD.
I shudder to think of what this might mean for fair rights usage. I like AAC. I like iTunes. I’ve basically converted my whole library to AAC for listening to on my iPod. But I’m also very worried about getting locked into a single vendor. Although I do like using a single vendor, I hate getting strong-armed there, and I want the freedom to leave when I choose even if that is never. The point is, I have the freedom to choose to stay or leave.
Maybe I’m just paranoid. Maybe I should trust Apple more. Afterall, Apple has done a lot for their userbase and the free software community recently. I’d like to think that Apple has no such intention, but the possibilities scare me.