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Apple Switches to Intel

So the next piece of the jigsaw puzzle in realizing Lampson's vision is Apple switching to Intel. Apple has historically kept a stranglehold on their hardware. For a few years when Apple was really on the ropes, they allowed a competitive market to form around their hardware business. But once they were back on solid ground, they stopped all that and have been the only hardware provider for their software for the last seven years.

Part of how Apple enforces "users run Apple software on Apple hardware only" is by having a proprietary and relatively obscure hardware platform. Apple's operating system has been created to run on the PowerPC set of chips for the last decade, and with only a limited set of supporting hardware. This fact has kept even underground competition from affecting Apple's market or their products.

However, in June 2005, Apple announced that they would switch to Intel hardware. This change affects the landscape dramatically. In theory, a user would be able to buy a general-purpose PC and load OS X on it, thereby breaking Apple's rule of "users run Apple software on Apple hardware only." How will Apple keep control of their own hardware market?

Apple has already made DRM cool by providing value to the consumer, so now they're going to extend that idea. Apple is looking to use the Trusted Computing Group's Trusted Platform Module (TPM) to tie Apple software to their hardware. The TPM provides a cryptographic mechanism to prevent an unauthorized operating system from booting. Further, the OS can look for the TPM and, if it isn't found, the OS could refuse to boot.

The Trusted Computing Group (and its TPM) has been the target of privacy advocates for years. The TPM has been viewed as another example of evil technology that can be used and abused by corporations to repress the rights of the users. The reality is that TPM-enabled systems will probably be the foundation of the next giant leap in computer security. It's impossible to convince users to give up their privacy for the sake of security. Users will, however, give up their privacy if their life has been made better somehow, likely through entertainment. Apple on the Intel platform will probably make the new system so attractive for users that they'll happily overlook the TPM core of the machine.

Also, the TPM has not yet seen wide deployment. Software developers haven't had a chance to get used to programming to the TPM. Security researchers haven't had a chance to really poke holes in the Trusted Computing Group's architecture. And security engineers have not had a chance to figure out how to fully leverage the capability of a TPM-enabled system, especially at the enterprise level. Once Apple makes the switch to Intel, more than 2 million TPM-enabled hosts will probably be shipped by Apple in the first year. This will be a massive deployment of the Trusted Computing Group's architecture and give developers, researchers, and engineers the chance to beat on the technology.

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