[linux-elitists] Phoenix Developing DRM-Equipped BIOS (fwd)
Wed Sep 3 20:44:50 PDT 2003
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Date: Wed, 3 Sep 2003 23:40:25 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Phoenix Developing DRM-Equipped BIOS
Home > Technology News > Phoenix Developing DRM-Equipped BIOS
September 3, 2003
Phoenix Developing DRM-Equipped BIOS
By Mark Hachman
BIOS maker Phoenix Technologies said it is currently shopping a
digital-rights-enabled BIOS system to top PC OEMs, the most aggressive
use of DRM technology to date.
Phoenix executives said Wednesday that they've developed a prototype
version of its Core Management Environment (cME) using DRM technology
in conjunction with Orbid Corp., a DRM technology provider. The
software was designed to assist content providers to authenticate and
track software moving from PC to PC.
Although DRM technology has moved steadily forward, consumers have had
some choice whether to implement it. Selected software providers in
various markets, such as Intuit and Macromedia, have chosen to
implement DRM, allowing consumers to choose DRM-less alternatives.
Phoenix's efforts, however, represent a more fundamental sea change.
Phoenix is a manufacturer of BIOS software, the underlying code which
ties together a PC's operating system and the system hardware. Since a
personal computer must have BIOS installed to boot, a user could be
forced to use the DRM technology whether he or she chooses to or not.
The final version of the cME is due to launch in the fourth quarter,
Timothy D. Eades, senior vice-president of corporate marketing for
Phoenix, said in an interview.
Phoenix's customers include four out of the top five PC OEMs. Dell
Computer uses a heavily-modified Phoenix BIOS from 1988 on its
notebooks and desktops, a Dell spokesman confirmed, and Phoenix BIOSes
have appeared in Pavilion desktops and notebooks from Hewlett-Packard.
The Phoenix-Orbid deal was designed to allow content providers the
ability to "track and trace" content which might be shared from one
user to the next, Eades said.
"DRM seems to be becoming a bigger and bigger issue, particularly
in...entertainment," Eades said. "Track and trace downloads and the
authentication of those downloads is a big issue, but a number of
companies do that. Track and trace of a particular solution, however,
is done by very few companies."
The Orbid DRM software will be built into the cME, which provides an
enhanced BIOS that allows greater interaction with the operating
system. While the cME isn't directly a part of Microsoft's
Next-Generation Secure Computing Base (NGSCB), known previously as
Palladium, Eades said the technology is "complementary".
Orbid's 4DRM software creates a secure area to store public keys,
which can be used to tie any file to that specific PC. The 4DRM system
creates a unique identifier for both the content as well as the
system, allowing the content providers to manage the content on a
user's PC. Orbid previously developed "watermarking" solutions to
identify content and prevent it from being distributed or copied,
which it calls "gray trading".
Phoenix and Orbid have created a working version of the software that
Phoenix is now demonstrating for its OEM customers, Eades said. The
DRM software will be shipped as a default option inside the cME
package. "It's up to the OEM whether or not to insert it on the
machine," he said. "We are offering it as a default option and it's up
to them to remove it."
An OEM will also have to decide whether or not to allow an end user to
turn the DRM feature off, Eades said.
Whether or not OEMs will adopt the new technology remains to be seen.
Microsoft's NGSCB technology is currently tied to Longhorn,
Microsoft's OS revision due in about two year's time.
At Dell, the company purchased a BIOS solution from Phoenix in 1988,
and since then has assigned Dell engineers to update it with support
for the latest hardware, a spokesman said. "We make it pretty clear
that Dell writes the BIOS for a particular system," he said.
Intel ships BIOSes designed by Phoenix rival AMI with its desktop
motherboards, an Intel spokesman said. Intel will discuss its own
security solution, LaGrande, at its Intel Developer Forum in two
The Phoenix software could also turn up in consumer electronics
devices. Phoenix has relationships with several consumer electronics
manufacturers, including Pioneer and Matsushita, which have announced
that they will use embedded versions of the Phoenix software in their
next-generation televisions. Other CE customers include Sony and
Toshiba, Eades said.
"Initial customer feedback from the entertainment industry in general
has been very favorable," Eades added.
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