Science & Technology, Student Life

Intel attempts to limit access to pirated flicks

It could soon become more difficult to watch the latest Hollywood flick on your personal computer using illegal technology. The war between media producers and Internet piraters has been waging for years, and is unlikely to end soon. However, recent developments in the hardware world have shown that Hollywood is willing to take the next step in preventing illegal file sharing.

Many are familiar with the concept of digital rights management, or DRM for short. Apple used this technology for many years to limit the number of computers on which purchased music could be listened to. DRM is a software method for verifying that the owner of the machine is also the owner of the media they are trying to play on it. Opponents of the technology cite the restriction as a violation of users’ rights and a as barrier to free trade. Whether this is true or not depends entirely on who you ask.

The use of DRM is made possible by lower levels of competition. There are many sectors of technology that are dominated by only a few companies. For example, the field of desktop processing unit manufacturing is one of the many questionable oligopolies of Silicon Valley. The industry is dominated by two players: Intel and Advanced Micro Devices. While other companies like ARM and IBM exist, they are unable to compete with the two big dogs. Intel has long been known to produce slightly more powerful chips, albeit at a higher price, with Advanced Micro Devices offering more economical, but still very capable Central Processing Units, more commonly known as CPUs.

The latest weapon in the duel between the two is Intel’s new processor architecture, Sandy Bridge. With Sandy Bridge, Intel is offering one of the first octo-core processors, available later this year, using the smaller, 32 nanometre manufacturing technique. Additionally, some of the CPUs will ship with an unlocked clock multiplier, something Intel has not previously done. This new feature will allow manufacturers and enthusiasts to increase the speed of the processor to fit their needs.

Along with these new and exciting features, Intel is also making a more controversial move. The company is embedding a new technology directly into the processor architecture called Intel Insider Code. While the manufacturer claims this is not a type of DRM restriction, many claim otherwise.

Intel says that the Insider Code is a method of streaming high definition Hollywood films directly, without any threat of piracy. They claim this measure will make it safer for filmmakers to offer digital streaming copies of their movies. However, many are wary that the Insider Code is simply a control measure.

Whether or not Sandy Bridge is a form of DRM remains to be seen. However, it seems optimistic to assume that it will facilitate a decrease in piracy. Those looking for a cheap flick may opt to use an Advanced Micro Devices processor, or stick with an older chip on the Intel line. Whether or not this move by Intel will cause a market shift to the benefit of longtime underdog Advanced Micro Devices is an interesting question. If this does happen, it could cause a major shift in the CPU industry.

The expression Wwhere there’s a will, there’s a way” suggests that piracy is unavoidable. As hard as manufacturers try to thwart the dishonest movie watchers, they may be  fighting a lost battle. Intel can only hope that Sandy Bridge introduces enough new and exciting features that consumers won’t avoid buying the CPU altogether.

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