Will Apple-Intel alliance put PCs in play for Mac OS X?

The Rat came home from work one day recently and found his ratlings gathered gleefully around a computer. In the Rat household, that's generally a bad omen.

'All right, who's doing what, and how soon will I need to call the Electronic Frontier Foundation for a lawyer?' he shouted from the family room door. 'I count six feet on the deck around that laptop, and that either means a mutiny, or you've hacked the MPAA's server again.'

The eldest ratling shook his head and held the laptop up for his father to see. 'It's nothing black-hat, Dad. We're just looking at the latest Apple Intel Developer Kit. On my Dell.'

The Rat has been pondering Apple's switch to Intel chips since it was announced. And the same question keeps coming back to his mind every time: How would Apple, if it was using industry-standard Intel hardware as the basis for its new computers, keep people from running Mac OS X on regular PCs?

The answer, apparently, is not very well'at least so far. 'I don't think Steve Jobs will like this,' the wirebiter told his adolescent, overly early adopter.

'It's too late for him to do anything, Dad. It's been Slashdotted and BitTorrented; the whole world has access. And somebody's already compiled a version with a workaround for the Trusted Computing stuff.'

The latest version of the Apple Intel Developer Kit apparently includes some use of Intel's Trusted Platform Module as part of the operating system'or at least as part of Apple's Rosetta technology that allows Mac OS X software compiled for the PowerPC processor to run on Intel.

TPM is a specification of the Trusted Computing Group and might be remembered by some in the form of Microsoft's much-maligned Palladium project. It's primarily a digital rights management technology that allows software to run only on a specific set of computers. So, theoretically, it could be used to make Mac OS for Intel run only on Intel Macs.

And some of the Rat's intelligent agents have suggested that the DRM provided by an Infineon TPM chip on the prototype IntelMacs developers now have their hands on is more than just a way to lock down where Mac OS X can run. It might be part of Apple's way of making nice with Hollywood.

If Apple were to, say, start selling movies out of its iTunes storefront, studios would probably want a little more control over what customers could do with that movie than the current DRM for iTunes music.

Or maybe not. It could just be an effort to keep parts of Apple's technology under wraps until it actually ships'something the company is famous for.

The fact that the Tiger is out of the cage could only complicate matters. 'I better not be seeing any subpoenas in the mail from Cupertino,' the Rat said sternly while waggling a finger at his children. 'Now, let me get a look at that laptop. I want to see how well Halo for Mac runs on it.'

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@postnewsweektech.com.

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