Making predictions is always a tough racket, I know that I have more than my fair share of prognostications that, after a couple of years pass, end up being way off the mark.
But there is one prediction that I made a couple of years ago that is looking to be right on target. In columns in 2005 and 2006 I predicted there were features in the (at the time) upcoming Microsoft Vista operating system that would be used against consumers and would end up making some people regret ever upgrading to Vista.
These features fit under Microsoft's Trusted Computing umbrella and are known as PVP-OPM (Protected Video Path-Output Protection Management) and COPP (Certified Output Protection Protocol). And one of the main goals of these "features" is to enforce video digital rights management all the way from the PC hardware to the monitor it connects to.
In those old columns I predicted that PVP-OPM in Vista would be used by video content owners to downgrade the quality of or even prevent people from viewing content that they had legally paid for if the content was being sent to a monitor connection that didn't subscribe to new DRM protocols. Some people responded that I was just creating FUD and that these systems would never be used against good customers doing everything legally.
Well, now that Vista has been out for a year we are starting to hear from more and more customers who upgraded to Vista, went out and purchased lots of legal video content and then found that they couldn't view the content, had to view it in an inferior resolution or ran the danger of losing the rights to view content that they had legally paid for.
On one recent blog post a reader detailed a problem he ran into while using Microsoft Vista along with Netflix's Watch Now feature and Amazon's Unbox downloadable movie service. This blogger seems to be the dream consumer of both the technology and the movie companies, someone who bought lots of the best, high-quality equipment and who utilizes cutting edge and legal video services.
But this person ran straight into the wall that DRM and the companies that give into it are putting up to essentially punish good customers. Because the high quality monitor the blogger purchased didn't subscribe to DRM protections that Hollywood wants, Netflix wouldn't play the Watch Now content. Worse, the suggested fix ran the risk of deleting the licenses to movies that the blogger had legally downloaded from Amazon Unbox.
The funny thing is, if this blogger had been running Windows XP, there wouldn't have been any problem (yet another reason to not upgrade to Vista). This experience isn't isolated and there are more and more examples of people who are trying to legally purchase content and running into these barriers and probably just wishing they had downloaded illegal content from Bittorrent.
So what are these cool new features in Vista accomplishing? Let me see: If you think you legally own content you purchase from online movie services, guess again. If you think you have control over PC hardware and software that you legally purchased, guess again.
I wish I had been wrong in my predictions, but the verdict now appears to be clear. When it comes to Trusted Computing, the party that isn't trusted is you, the consumer.