A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection

By luvhuffer
Dec 26, 2006
  1. This is a very interesting though somewhat of a long technical read of what we may expect on our hardware and software as a result of microsofts content protection scheme. The term cost, as pointed out by the author, "..... uses "cost" in the sense of "penalty", "damage", "harm", "injury" and "loss" rather than the more financial "expense", "outlay", and "price", although the latter may well be incurred eventually.

    A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection

    Executive Summary

    Windows Vista includes an extensive reworking of core OS elements in order to
    provide content protection for so-called "premium content", typically HD data
    from Blu-Ray and HD-DVD sources. Providing this protection incurs
    considerable costs in terms of system performance, system stability, technical
    support overhead, and hardware and software cost. These issues affect not
    only users of Vista but the entire PC industry, since the effects of the
    protection measures extend to cover all hardware and software that will ever
    come into contact with Vista, even if it's not used directly with Vista (for
    example hardware in a Macintosh computer or on a Linux server). This document
    analyses the cost involved in Vista's content protection, and the collateral
    damage that this incurs throughout the computer industry.

    Executive Executive Summary

    The Vista Content Protection specification could very well constitute the
    longest suicide note in history.


    This document looks purely at the cost of the technical portions of Vista's
    content protection [Note A]. The political issues (under the heading of DRM)
    have been examined in exhaustive detail elsewhere and won't be commented on
    further, unless it's relevant to the cost analysis. However, one important
    point that must be kept in mind when reading this document is that in order to
    work, Vista's content protection must be able to violate the laws of physics,
    something that's unlikely to happen no matter how much the content industry
    wishes it were possible. This conundrum is displayed over and over again in
    the Windows content-protection specs, with manufacturers being given no hard-
    and-fast guidelines but instead being instructed that they need to display as
    much dedication as possible to the party line. The documentation is peppered
    with sentences like:

    "It is recommended that a graphics manufacturer go beyond the strict letter
    of the specification and provide additional content-protection features,
    because this demonstrates their strong intent to protect premium content".

    This is an exceedingly strange way to write technical specifications, but is
    dictated by the fact that what the spec is trying to achieve is fundamentally
    impossible. Readers should keep this requirement to display appropriate
    levels of dedication in mind when reading the following analysis [Note B].

    The entire document can be read here
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