When five companies band together to push a new standard for digital rights managment it begs questions about whose flash memories will get designed into equipment.
It was announced a few days ago that five major companies have got together to push a next-generation standard for digital rights protection on SD cards and "embedded flash" memory. The work takes place under the tentative title of "Next Generation Secure Memory Initiative" and involves Panasonic, Samsung, SanDisk, Sony and Toshiba.
Given that four of the five companies have significant interests in consumer equipment it would seem that embedded in this context means stand-alone flash memories inside electronic equipment such as tablet computers.
The joint press statement was short on the benefits of the standard except to say that a revamped standard is necessary to protect high definition video streams and Blu-ray movies when copied to and playing from flash memory. It was even shorter on technical detail but gave the impression that much of the collaborative work has been done and will involve the use of identification technology applied to flash memory die.
In this case it is notable that Samsung, Toshiba and SanDisk are three of the leading NAND flash memory producers. Samsung and Toshiba were responsible for 70 percent of branded NAND flash memory chip sales in the third quarter of 2011, according to DRAMexchange.
The other significant vendors – Hynix Semiconductor, Micron Technology Inc. and Intel Corp. – were not part of the announcement.
But suppose an ability to play HD and Blu-ray streams in tablet computers and smartphones was totally dependent on a special design of NAND flash memory chip made by Toshiba and Samsung – but not by Hynix or Micron?
Of course the true impact of this standard will not be known until more detail is revealed. The security may be handled in a flash memory controller IC that can pick up unique ID data from the flash memory ICs without requiring specialized design features. And usually any patents involved in market-setting standards are made available to all on reasonable and non-disriminatory terms. Nonetheless a jump-start on a standard can leave the competition scrambling and at a disadvantage for months or even years.
Finally the elephant not in the in the room is Apple, the biggest buyer of NAND flash memory. Apple is not the sort of company to be dictated to in terms of who can or cannot supply flash memory and in term of what standards will or will not apply when it comes to playing video; note its stand out position against Adobe flash.
Nonetheless the promulgation of any standard always prompts the question as to whether the standard also serves to raise, or lower, the barriers to competition from other players.
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You are correct. I have my secured SD card because it asks me to put passwords for things I do not think I need to protect. It is just the fact - people do not care about security that much when it is not MONEY though the data may be implied money.
Some people never learn! These are essentially the SAME group that founded the SD Card Association. "SD" stands for "Secure Digital" and it was INTENDED to perform EXACTLY the same thing this new group proposes to do. SD requires a fairly complex HW security mechanism built in to the device. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the applications consumers ended using these cards for (removable memory for cameras and cell phones) didn't need this overhead security burden, and NOBODY to my knowledge has ever really used it (or implemented the driver SW to support it)! This is just another solution looking for a problem (from the same people). Code Monkey's point is well taken.
Streaming and downloading multimedia contents can be tightly tied to the device that the content is downloaded to. Similar concept can apply to store the content to a storage device. For example, there is an ID in a thumb drive.
According to common practice of copyright, the owner has the right to view the content anywhere he/ she wants. Ideally, an average Joe shall easily be able to move the content anywhere he wants including keeping a backup copy. I hope we won't be forced to go through the hassle we don't need in the future.
Our industry really needs to come up with a real solution for the IP protection / rights problem.
On the one hand, there is the set of people that essentially believe that anything anyone creates should be free and open to all takers. It's kind of a theoretical socialist attitude; everything belongs to everyone and no one has any extra right to benefit from anything, even if they created it.
On the other hand, there are the lawyers and the old guard media companies that act like no one but them should have any rights; that everyone should pay them for even thinking about music or technical IP or such. They'd seemingly like to lock everything down to a direct channel to customer's bank accounts and require approval for any use.
Stuck in the middle are the set of average people that just want convenient and economical access to entertainment and tools. I don't mind paying a fair price for music, software, movies or what have you, but I resent being assumed to be a criminal first. I resent the near elimination of the "fair use" concept.
I'm really not sure if the IP mess we're in is a technical, legal, moral or ethical problem. Maybe a little of all of those. What I am sure of is that knee-jerk hardware or software lock-down schemes like that described in this article will not stop the IP socialists but it will make use difficult for the rest of us. It will make the middle-majority of us feel used, criminalized and abused while the IP socialists will defeat the lock-down and get free use of the material regardless.