It's Not A Game
Beale Screamers Brother
beale_screamer_s_brother at yahoo.com
Tue Apr 1 06:27:50 UTC 2003
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It's Not A Game
By "Beale Screamer's Brother"
This article provides a brief glimpse into two battling
Titans--Sony and Microsoft--and how Digital Rights Management
(DRM) is playing a crucial role in restricting your freedom
and owning a piece of your wallet.
Since this is a Squeak mailing list, I thought I would
entertain you with a link to Squeak running on an XBox. This
article, however, is not about "yet another Squeak port."
This article is not about technical tinkering. This article
is not even a statement that Squeak is at all suitable as a
delivery platform for these next generation consoles,
although it would be interesting to be proven wrong.
This article is a conflux of ideas and facts, from billion
dollar patent infringement litigation, to DRM, to the Digital
Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and finally to high-performance
gaming consoles, that collectively will shape the future of home
entertainment, and possibly our children
Microsoft, like Sony, envisions its next game console
as a universal digital box.
-- Dean Takahashi
The war to control the home entertainment console is well
underway. Sony has a commanding market share. Microsoft entered
the battle with XBox, spending billions of dollars to ensure its
personal computer dominance translates into a platform for the
lucrative home entertainment business.
With the addition of broadband connectivity, these consoles
finally become a viable channel for Internet-based services to
enter your living room.
Sony and Microsoft are already designing their next
generation consoles. No one can predict the winner, but as
Richard Doherty, an analyst at the Envisioneering Group in
Seaford, N.Y. stated,
"Games are the engine of the next big wave of computing.
Kutaragi is the dance master, and Sony is calling the shots."
Note: Ken Kutaragi is head of Sony's game division and
mastermind of the company's last two game boxes.
I assert that these next generation platforms will impact
children, teens, adults, and of course businesses, in ways
we've never seen before.
Some of you may have witnessed your six year old child
playing an Electronic Arts sports game (baseball, hockey,
basketball). Six year old children simultaneously manipulate
the XBox controller's six buttons, three joysticks, and two
triggers, while at the same time synthesizing real-time
movement of ten basketball players; five under their control.
The physical effects of sweat dripping from a child's forehead
is a testament to the mental and physical bonding that occurs
while using these consoles. Simply stated, it's amazing to
These consoles, however, will be used for much more than
just gaming, with businesses of all sorts flocking to take
advantage of the real-time, real-world, immersive, psychological
warping "engine" in your living room.
DIGITAL RIGHTS MANAGEMENT
The current generation of home entertainment consoles,
Sonys PlayStation 2 and Microsofts XBox, and their next
generation consoles, the "Sony PlayStation 3" and "XBox Next,"
are the springboards that allow both companies to vault into
your living room and own a piece of your wallet. These
consoles will push the envelope of hardware (including
photo-realistic real-time image rendering), software, and
The number of advanced game console users soared by 128%
in 2002, reaching 56.3 million worldwide, according to the
latest research from Strategy Analytics Broadband Entertainment
Strategies service. 75% of users own Sonys PlayStation 2,
compared to 13% with Nintendos GameCube, and 12% with Microsofts
Predictions are that XBox sales will rise by 12% in 2003,
fueled by XBoxs growing software library, its clearly defined
online gaming strategy, and Microsofts substantial investment
in the platform.
Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a fundamental component
of both Sony's and Microsoft's strategy to control not only
the distribution of content to these consoles, but to control
how and when you use such content. I define "content" as any
digital information including but not limited to audio, video
and even software.
DRM is clearly important to both companies. Sony
Entertainment, along with Philips Electronics, recently
purchased the DRM pioneering company InterTrust for $453
InterTrust has only thirty employees, but owns one
of the most extensive DRM patent portfolios in history, comprising
26 issued patents and 85 pending in the U.S. patent office.
Stop and think about this: half a billion dollars for
thirty people and some patents.
As Roger Parloff writes:
"InterTrust also has one other asset of note: a
suit against Microsoft that appears to be the
highest-stakes patent litigation in history....
InterTrust is seeking an injunction barring
distribution of about 85% of Microsoft's product line."
Sony's acquisition of InterTrust gives them something
even more important, as Rober Parloff describes:
"Rather, the companies may be acquiring what the
feds failed to get via their sputtering antitrust
suit: a Microsoft containment strategy."
Sony also licensed all of ContentGuard's DRM patents.
ContentGuard is a spin-off of Xerox that owns DRM patents
created by Xerox PARC's Mark Stefik.
Together these two licensing deals leave Sony with a
formidable DRM patent portfolio, giving Sony one important
advantage as it plans the design, implementation, and
release of the Sony PlayStation 3.
The Microsoft XBox is a stellar example of using
DRM to restrict, and control, the distribution of software,
and not just for software licensing reasons, but also for
market manipulation reasons. Microsoft considers DRM an
important component of XBox's hardware and software design,
building in fundamental restrictions to who can and cannot
build software that executes on the console.
It is clear that Microsoft is taking a two phase
approach to controlling home entertainment: 1) build a
powerful, useful and successful hardware console and
2) use DRM to control the distribution of software and
multimedia content to the console. If Microsoft is
successful in gaining living room market share, they can
use DRM to maintain and expand their market control,
to the detriment of third-party software companies,
A very technically talented and vocal critic of
Microsoft's use of DRM, and the associated DMCA, is
"Beale Screamer". Beal Screamer wrote an article entitled
"Mad as Hell about the DMCA" and posted it along with
source code that breaks the DRM protection of Windows Media
audio and video content.
Microsoft is going one step further, negotiating with
CPU vendors such as Intel and AMD to include hardware facilities
in the CPU, and facilities in the Windows Operating System,
that allow much stronger enforcement of DRM policies.
Microsoft's code name for this was "Palladium." Microsoft is
now calling it the "Next-generation Secure Computing Base."
Ross Anderson, a well respected security professional,
has the following thoughts about Palladium.
Squeak on XBox
One of the arguably less interesting facts in this
article is a brief description of "Squeak on XBox."
A technique called "modding" an XBox was used to
replace the copyrighted Microsoft BIOS that restricts
software from running on the XBox (unless officially
"endorsed" by Microsoft) with a new BIOS that removes
such restrictions. This enables Squeak to be run on the
box without obtaining license and expensive development
systems from Microsoft.
A description of what is required to get Squeak
running on an XBox can be found at the following URI.
The fact that hardware modifications were required to
remove "Microsoft handcuffs" in order to get Squeak running
is something that should raise your eyebrow.
Predicting the future is impossible, inventing the future is
challenging, but reacting to the future is perilous.
Watch out for the Titans.
Original Distribution Date: March 31, 2003
by "Beale Screamer's Brother"
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