07 June 2005

Intel inside my Mac


After all the years of rumors, it seems it's finally going to happen. The Mac OS will be running on Intel chips.

This makes no sense if you're just thinking about the technology; according to my friends who do wires (I'm a software geek) the PowerPC line has much more room for growth than the basic Intel design, which has many more limitations.

But if you're thinking about digital rights management (DRM), the purpose of this becomes clear. New Intel chips will have DRM built in, and new releases of movies and Windows and, oh, your company's travel policy will only be readable on computers with built-in DRM.

This seems bad for the rich world — it's hard to think of a development more likely to stifle innovation in computing. But it will be disastrous for places like Cambodia, which will not be able to afford the price of licensed software. Piracy here does not take money from Microsoft and its ilk; if forced to pay for software licenses and authentic DVDs, people just won't buy either. DRM will lead to no computing in the developing world, or to a form of computing (Linux on non-DRM hardware) which will be utterly incompatible with the rich world. The greed of Hollywood and Microsoft would destroy the dream of the interconnected planet.

The best hope, ironically enough, comes in the form of yet another monolithic company. I'm speaking, of course, of Google. They seem to have plans to serve as the gateway to the web. Their computers would render and cache pages, and then serve them to your desktop, which would need little capability, since the computing resources would be at Google.

Google could expand this to web services, where, for instance, your word processor could be a program on the Google server. Given the popularity of Google, this could become the default computing mode for much of the world. As long as you're in a place with good network connections, this could free you from buying software, upgrading hardware, and worrying about system problems.

But we'd all better hope that Google sticks to its "Do No Evil" corporate policy.