Apple Embraces HDCP
Ever wonder why Apple switched to a new external dispay interface? HIgh-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) control. Long story short, it's a way to use monitors as DRM tools, preventing end users from viewing "unauthorized" media on certain displays. Apple jumped on the bandwagon with this one: it's already present in Vista.
The two problems with this move are immediately obvious:
1. What happens when a facet of the HDCP agreement changes? Your $800 monitor is now a paperweight? Also, how many times do proprietary hardware elements really work together as advertised? In my experience as a sales/support guy, not very often. When spending tons of cash on a digital display "your mileage may vary" is not good enough.
2. When faced with a HDCP block, I promise you that nobody is gonna go "Oh, well, I guess I'd better go buy an entirely new HD setup". Nope. They'll quietly turn towards pirated media, since it works without all the nonsense attendant on DRM.
Never assume your users are idiots. They've heard of the Internet. They've heard of piracy. They've heard of DRM circumvention.
In this case, 'compliant' means HDMI or recent-vintage DVI, but even monitors or TVs that support HDCP may not properly negotiate with the DisplayPort connector to give iTunes and QuickTime the all-clear signal (if so, quitting and relaunching iTunes once the display is hooked up may clear the playback hold). Equally annoying: HDCP is only supposed to apply to 'high-value' digital streams, meaning standard-def purchases and rentals on the iTunes store should be out of scope... but some reports indicate that both the HD and SD instances are flagged, blocking playback on anything but the laptop's internal display or a straight-thru HDMI connection. Argh!
Slashdot says that Apple's added "copyright protection" to its video. But copyright law isn't violated when you watch a movie on an "unapproved" monitor. This isn't about enforcing copyright law, it's about giving a small handful of movie companies a veto over hardware designs.
My email to Apple:
If you think that forcing HDCP support into your monitors will accomplish anything other than driving your customers towards piracy, then you're probably working in the wrong industry.
As it stands, Apple's prices remain high and (despite the prettiness of the machines and ease of OS use) the build quality is dropping (check those warranty rates if you don't believe me). Don't piss your customers off to the point where the ditch you... because they'll do just that. Personally, I still run an iBook because the old MacBooks were too badly built, and the new ones require too many hardware workarounds for my existing external drives. At the rate you're going, I'll soon have no reason to stick around, and for every one who writes you an email like this, how many are silently making up their minds already? Apple's market share is slim, and cannot afford to dip too much.