The Blame Game

May 10, 2007

“Legislators don’t worry too much about what’s constitutional. We just try to do what’s right, and we let the courts figure that out.”

– Minnesota Senator Sandy Pappas (? article has “Poppas”)

From a fascinating (and frequently hilarious) National Review Online article (pointed out by the invaluable EFF newsletter) about how the games industry is being blamed for the recent Virginia Tech bloodbath… even though the perpetrator apparently never played video games.

As I’ve been saying for a decade or two, if the games industry would just grow up it wouldn’t be subject to this kind of childish attack.

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The Cost Analysis of Vista

May 10, 2007

If you haven’t read all the way through Peter Gutmann’s brilliant online treatise, A Cost Analysis of Vista Content Protection, I urge you to do so immediately. It seems a bit slow at first, but gets going rapidly. Down near the end, a whole lot of things start snapping into focus.

The key revelation came when I encountered Gutmann’s contention that DRM was not being added into Vista due to prompting from Hollywood, but more likely in spite of it.

Suddenly the corporate psychology made sense. It all has to do with the end of the Bill Gates Microsoft, and the start of the new Steve Ballmer Microsoft. See, Bean-counter Ballmer sees no way of ensuring a long-term revenue stream for Microsoft other than literally taking over the content-distribution business. So he’s doing exactly what everyone always accused Microsoft of doing: copying Apple. In this case, the magic formula iTunes+iPod=lock-in. I think Jobs originally did adopt DRM as a way to appease the music industry and allow him to sell little music players. But for Ballmer, it looked like the goose that would keep on laying golden eggs forever.

Once you accept this view, everything makes sense. Why isn’t Vista better? I can just hear Ballmer screaming: “I don’t CARE! Just make the f*cking thing LOOK good!!” But then, why is Office 2007 getting good reviews? Because that’s part of the content that Microsoft wants to sell (as a service, naturally). Vista is merely the distribution system; it’s only purpose is to take control of the hardware. It only has to look good enough to roll out via existing OEM agreements.

And why the big move with Games for Windows? Because they’re planning to turn Windows into the Xbox. I figure it will be about six months after Vista achieves market dominance that they’ll start charging game developers a royalty, the way they do on the consoles. (It’ll initially be some sort of surcharge: a fee for being included in the new Games Explorer, or the Live online service.)

Even the Zune suddenly makes sense. It’s not an aberration… it’s the core strategy.

The only fly in Ballmer’s ointment is that DRM doesn’t actually work. I think he’s probably hoping no one will notice, giving Microsoft time to gain DMCA-validated control of the distribution pipeline. After that, it won’t matter.


Words of Wisdom from Intel

May 10, 2007

Words of Wisdom from Intel

The following passage comes from Intel’s “Content Strategy Backgrounder,” which seems to have been posted on their press site late last year or early this year:

“Curbing piracy is not a question of technological barriers; it’s a matter of establishing a business model that deflates the incentive to steal. Experience shows that consumers who can’t get the entertainment content they want will almost certainly find a back channel to access it. Intel is convinced that the answer lies in making content easier to buy than it is to pirate, a philosophy first applied to film by actor Morgan Freeman, a principal of Revelations Entertainment. Applied more broadly, it means proactively providing consumers with good value along with compelling, high-quality content that is easy to access, increasingly available, fairly priced, attractively packaged and transparently protected.”

Hear, hear! But is anyone in the content industry listening? Or do we have to be totally locked in to “verified” devices and “protected” content before sanity returns?