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By Gerard Lokhoff, Technology Officer, Philips CryptoTec
In its' short existence the World Wide Web has proven to be an enormously efficient tool for the dissemination of information. The ease with which digital information can be found and shared has triggered unprecedented cooperation. Many of the applications of the World Wide Web are still confined to the domain of the Information Technologies, typically personal computers, university or corporate networks etc. However, the appeal of the World Wide Web will soon trigger a flood of Consumer Electronics devices that will be on-line. We already see the first droplets appear: digital music players, Internet radios, browser enabled kitchen appliances, etcetera. With the introduction of these devices new expectations - which will also have their impact on the character of the World Wide Web - will have to be satisfied. This applies to services like content searching, but also content push, which will be compared to the broadcast type of delivery. Today's customer experience with CE devices will influence the way in which these service will have to be offered.
Users of personal computers are of a special breed: in which other industry would one find people with such patience, understanding, willingness to change, etc.? Certainly not in the Consumer Electronics markets! There users expect a perfectly operating system for the minimum end-user price. Please let me illustrate some of the differences:
At this moment Digital Rights Management is in its' infant stage. The content providers have gone through the stages of ignorance , awareness and non acceptance of free distribution of electronic content delivery. They are now about to accept the phenomenon as a new way to do business, and Digital Rights Management is an important component of their new offerings. They can chose technology from many different vendors, some with a more dominant position in the present market than others. Trials and first commercial roll outs are under way. But it will be some time before the market has settled down and DRM is a 'standard' component. We will probably have to cope with different DRM systems for quite some time.
The PC industry is used to this situation, and users can update their systems easily. For the CE industry the existence of many DRM systems is extremely complicated. Users expect to be able to have access to all content, which would dictate support for various DRM systems. However
It is clear that what seems to be acceptable in the PC domain, cannot be used for CE applications.
The Consumer Electronics end-user wants the delivery to happen as smoothly as radio and television operate today. Technology is not the main focus - content is!
For CE manufacturers the idea of a DRM transcription service is very appealing: a CE device would just need to use a single, unified DRM client. The download of protected content can then be performed by connecting to a 'DRM gateway' service. This will take care of transcription of DRM rules, attached to the various DRM protected formats, to the standardized format. Transactions can be performed in a standardized way as well: the gateway will interface with the various transaction models. Substantial cost reductions in CE devices are expected. But, more importantly, all content from various providers can be made available to the users of the CE devices.
Philips CryptoTec is currently investigating the possibilities for such a DRM Gateway and unified CE DRM system, with the intention to make this available to the Consumer Electronics market. We expect a first implementation to become available later this year. We hope to spread the idea during the W3C workshop, and gain support for this project: we expect such a solution could be of great benefit to content providers and the PC industry as well.