Intel + DRM: a crippled processor that you have to pay extra to unlock

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109 Responses to “Intel + DRM: a crippled processor that you have to pay extra to unlock”

  1. Anonymous says:

    AS400. Fast400. Anyone?

  2. Anonymous says:

    A CPU relies on an instruction set to do its job, and each instruction is represented as a certain physical pathway on the die. It is software and hardware at once. DMCA can apply to this just as it does to higher-level programming languages. I don’t like that Intel does what they do, but I both understand how they do it, and understand the legalities supporting it. That being said, I don’t have to buy their product if I don’t like what they do to make it. Vote with your wallet, people. :)

  3. pizzicato says:

    This is how it works, if that $50 card doesn’t exist, and the chip sold unlocked, majority would pay more for this chip and those who opt for the upgrade would pay less.

    In a way, those who want the extra bit of oomph is in fact subsidising the rest of the market with doesn’t need it. A good deal for the consumer.

  4. Griffin says:

    I fail to see why so many people think “free marketers” would be opposed to this. This is inherently anti-capitalist, and in more ways than one.

    Of course, corporations hate capitalism, and free markets, and, like Intel, will do everything in their power to avoid working in one. This is using various artificial and natural abuses of the free market to make extra money. Sure, its easy. Sure, everybody else is pretty much doing the same thing. But it’s only possible because the government says they can do it, and can arrest anyone else who tries to build and sell a competing version of the chip without said restrictions.

    We all agreed that giving up on on the idea of a free market is the price we were willing to pay for innovation. That’s the only reason we did it – because free markets are NOT efficient at encouraging discovery. So when things like this come up, it comes down to this -

    Is it worth giving up a bit more of the ideal of a free market, of capitalism, of a property based society, of freedom in general, for the bit of an increase in innovation this offers.

    There’s an argument both ways, and I’m not going to say who’s right. Innovation is important, and has made our society many times better. But its important that when you take a side in this issue, you know which side your taking.

    • HarveyBoing says:

      We all agreed that giving up on on the idea of a free market is the price we were willing to pay for innovation.

      Patent and copyright law provide for government-protected monopolies. Neither are involved here.

      What other “giving up” on a free market do you have in mind?

  5. travtastic says:

    Better hope they’re using solid encryption.

  6. zarniwooporiginal says:

    On the other hand, you could say that if they have more good chips than they expected in a certain yield then the market value of the chips should go down.

    It’s like farmers painting blemishes on half of a bumper pear crop so that the good ones can keep a higher price.

    Of course if their yields are known and it’s simply that there are always too many chips at the higher end of the spectrum for them to get a proper price differentiation between both ends of the market (given that there are always some people willing to pay phenomenal amounts for small gains at the top end), the analogy becomes a bit strained.

  7. Narual says:

    I seem to remember hearing from some of our old mainframe guys that IBM used to sell a mainframe that was basically the same box across a wide price range, but they’d have some wires either connected or disconnected to cripple it based on how much speed you paid for… and that a fax was distributed with a tongue in cheek warning that one must be sure not to connect wire x to spot y and disconnect wire z, or else one might experience vastly increased performance on their mainframe.

  8. sixohsix says:

    How I read this article: Good news, everybody! Now you can buy Intel’s cheapest CPU, visit a shady Russian website somewhere, and turn it into Intel’s top-of-the-line CPU for free!

    I seem to recall NVidia had some graphics cards that, when flashed with a better model’s firmware, would turn into that better model. Hmm…

  9. Mitch says:

    I bet what ol’ Siva Vaidhyanathan actually says is “If walue, than right.”

    No problem. I’ll just keep buying AMD processors.

  10. daev says:

    Funny, I was just about to start comparing stats on processors for a new build. Intel just saved me a lot of time here, and just made a sale for AMD.

    Thanks guys! :)

  11. Anonymous says:

    Cory, as much as I agree with you most of the time on DRM, you missed this one really badly. Bashing DRM does not always translate well to physical goods.

    It’s not crippling. Buyers are well aware of the capabilities of the CPU they are buying, in advance. They just have a _choice_ to upgrade if they want to – for a lower price and hassle factor than if they needed to actually replace the CPU. This is good for everyone. Makes the manufacturing cheaper, therefore *you* pay less if you want to buy a CPU (ok, assuming that at least part of the cost saving is shared with the customer), and you create less waste when upgrading.

    You get what you pay for – and you’ll pay more if you want more. Simple,you can make an informed decision, and your existing “rights” and CPU features are never taken away.

    (Having said all this, the fact that many manufacturers have been doing this for a long time woud not make this specific move right. I’m just arguing that it’s not wrong in the first place.)

    Robert

  12. DarthVain says:

    LOL! To Quote Dirty Harry “Go ahead, make my day!”

    Computer hardware has been hardware disabled for years. That is, take a perfectly good chip that you have too many off in the expensive market, physically break it, and sell them in the cheap market. All this is doing is breaking it with software rather than physically.

    PC hobbyists have been hacking hardware for years to “fix” chips to tap potential. Doing it in software just makes the job easier. Both for Intel to lock, and for hobbyists to hack.

    Once upon a time a graphics company did this, locking certain features of expensive cards using driver software, and selling them on the cheap market. It didn’t take hobbyists long to figure out how to make a 100$ card perform like a 500$ one without any of the risk associated with physical hardware hacking!

    So in short, go ahead Intel and make my day. PC Hobbyists will rejoice again!

  13. toyg says:

    Forced market-segmentation is a scam that has been allowed to go on for too long.

    If this chip makes some people wake up to the reality of IT manufacturers (and software developers! see Microsoft “Home” series…) holding back innovation just to make a quick buck, then so be it.

  14. Anonymous says:

    If greed wasn’t an issue then they wouldn’t be doing this, not when it costs them the same amount to produce the chip regardless of what feature are unlocked. Intel has a history of deceptive practices, this is no different. See i487SX as an example.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Honestly, I don’t see a moral problem here (they have the right to make whatever crappy stuff they want), as long as this isn’t enforced in law. (they used to physically damage the chip)

  16. Anonymous says:

    There’s no economic reason for Intel to have multiple production lines for chips with almost the same capabilities. Also, selling a potentially more powerful CPU with low entry prices with the option of upgrading by the simple means of a license key – without the need for an hardware upgrade! – is not only a benefit to the customer for also to the environment.

  17. Anonymous says:

    The problem is being anti-private property per se, Cory-it’s Rent Seeking. The MPAA-type folks are perfectly fine with the idea of private property for themselves…they just want the rest of us to pay rents. For everything.

    This is, I think, the source of the economic problems in the West. A lot of our industries have decided that they want to be rent seekers-which means they are no longer trying to add wealth. This probably has something to do with increasing income inequality and the threat to Brin’s Diamond shaped society.

    We live in an era where enclosure is being extended from land (and it is working very strongly there-drive around the American Midwest and you’ll find huge corporate latifundae) to everything. If current trends continue, we’ll be paying for thinking concepts that someone has acquired via enclosure.

  18. phead says:

    Just sounds like the old mainframe upgrades we used to do, snip a wire for £500K, but take a day doing it and make it look really complex.

  19. carljohnson says:

    The upside of this policy would be the ability to demand producer responsibility — if they’re only licensing use, and not really selling us anything, and it belongs to them, then it should go back to them when it’s done. All my old phones, computers, consoles, monitors would be the producer’s responsibility, instead of my local government’s.

  20. jimkirk says:

    Decades ago when computers had 512K of RAM, I knew a guy who was in field service for a company that would charge you mumblty something dollars to upgrade you to 768K.

    He just moved a jumper on the mother board to allow addressing the memory that was already there.

    I used to work for a company who had a software upgrade for a product that just allowed the present software to access the extra functions that were already there. Another company had two products with two different amounts of disk space. You guessed it, they both had the same hard drive.

    In these cases the official explanation is that it costs less to maintain a single version of code or to stock a single size hard drive, and they want to maintain product differentiation, but it always makes me feel bad.

    Still, there’s the parable of the farmer who hired men to harvest his crop one morning. That afternoon he hired more men for half a day’s labor. In the evening he paid them all the same amount. When the men who had worked all day complained, he told them “hey, you agreed to the terms of the contract and were paid fairly, so what’s your beef?”

  21. dhalgren says:

    This is silliness to me. One more reason to set fire to our computers, i.e. Drug Machines, and escape the interwebs while we still can with part of our brains still intact.

  22. dequeued says:

    This is bullcrap, plain and simple.

    Stop making excuses for Intel.
    These processors are fully tested and able to use all of their advanced features, the ONLY reason they can’t is because intel locked them out, just to be dicks about it.

  23. Lewis Baumstark says:

    Note that the DMCA won’t apply to this because the ‘DRM’ here doesn’t protect a copyrighted work. It would not be illegal to unlock on your own or to tell others how to do so.

    It may be a contract/license violation, however. Certainly similar point-of-sale licenses exist already and are enforceable (e.g., cell phone contracts).

  24. orwellian says:

    There is a difference between a product and a service. With the cable analogy, you are paying for a service, the reception of certain channels. The fact that there are extra channels being transmitted doesn’t affect the contract for the service. I can’t return unwatched cable to Kabletown for a credit. My cell phone has the capacity to handle text and web but if I don’t pay for the service, I don’t get it.

    A product, to get technical, is a thingie; it exists in time and space. My cell phone is owned by someone, either me or a company. I can sell the phone, even if it’s subsidized, and the service doesn’t change. I can buy another phone and use it with the service (assuming technical requirements are met).

    There are some legal aspects of owning a product; there might be a warranty to owning a knife and I might void it by using it to split a log. There is no law requiring me to pay extra to use a product differently than it was intended or designed. If I mod a hammer and electric drill to make an electric hammer, I don’t owe the manufacturers anything.

    I can overclock a computer to get it to run faster. I can change the OS without paying the manufacturer of the computer or the developer of the original software. I can change the case, add RAM or mod an old typewriter to act as a keyboard. It’s a product, a thingie.

    I can subscribe to Netflix or rent a DVD to see a movie. I should have the right to put the DVD on my hard drive. I shouldn’t have the right to hack my monitor or video card to allow me to record the Netflix stream to my hard drive.

    If Intel wants to make the same chip and sell it as single/double/triple/quad core, it can physically disable the extraneous cores. Intel can’t disable them with software and expect me to not unleash the extra cores.

  25. GrumpySteen says:

    OMG! My cable company transmits a bunch of channels that my cable box could decode, but won’t because I haven’t paid for them to be unlocked. This makes me so mad! They should either make cable boxes that can’t receive channels or enable everything and let me watch all those channels for free!

    Sounds idiotic, doesn’t it? Complaining that Intel is somehow stealing from you by locking part of the functionality of a chip sounds exactly like that to me.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Have you heard about the problems with computerized devices for the handicapped?

    They do too much if they do anything else than what they’re being sold as; meaning if you buy a “book reader” it can’t be used to do anything else, like surf the web.

    That like buying a whole computer for looking at one website, say the “National Institute for the Blind”, but having to buy another whole other computer to look for books for the blind at Amazon.com.

    Devices are now made for multiple functions but handicapped and disabled funding is still “uni-functional” which leads to extremely stupid refusal to fund devices.

  27. AirPillo says:

    How you feel about this is likely going to divide you up from your peers along the lines of your opinion of market regulation.

    Free marketeers are going to be all for this. Intel is using a technical trick to manipulate the supply and demand of high performing processors. As their percentage of high performers improved with manufacturing refinements, they added an artificial element to preserve the premium pricing of the upper levels that used to be caused by genuine supply problems.

    A more moderate person as well as someone who favors heavier regulation is going to see this as a tragedy of the commons.

    If Intel simply priced the high performing chips more appropriately to their newly increasing demand, this would help create market pressure to advance to yet-faster processors, instead of using smoke and mirrors to prevent the customer from being aware that supply has changed, and to maintain the premium pricing architecture that originally arose from a market reality which no longer exists.

    Clearly I fall into the latter category, as I think this is exactly the kind of practices industries use to cheat their way out of capitalist pressures to innovate.

    The argument that this system is beneficial to customers with lower budgets ignores the obvious fact that if Intel simply lowered prices in accord with the newly increased supply of high-end processors this artificial savings would collapse, as now the high end products would be more affordable.

    Likely, both major consumer CPU companies are doing this, and both are either actively colluding or engaged in an unspoken agreement about this practice. As we have seen with video cards, combining practices like this with an oligopoly is an example where free markets become a rancid abomination. Immediately after Nvidia and ATI are charged with price fixing all of their high-end cards had their prices drop by as much as 50% within a couple of weeks… a pretty stunning admission of complete guilt.

    • AirPillo says:

      “If Intel simply priced the high performing chips more appropriately to their newly increasing demand,”

      should read “newly increasing supply”. I should proofread my comments.

    • HarveyBoing says:

      The argument that this system is beneficial to customers with lower budgets ignores the obvious fact that if Intel simply lowered prices in accord with the newly increased supply of high-end processors this artificial savings would collapse, as now the high end products would be more affordable.

      Like it or not, producers have always had the option of manipulating supply to affect prices.

      I’m okay if you want to claim that producers should never be allowed to do this. That they should always produce as much product as they are capable of, and we should enjoy the reduction in prices that such a glut would create. I’ll say that’s a ridiculous assertion and that you’re hopelessly naïve. But at least that view would be consistent with the above argument against what Intel’s doing.

      But if you’re not prepared to take that stance, then you’ve got no business singling Intel out and claiming that they should be required to provide a large a supply as they can.

      As a “free marketeer” (yes, I do agree with your classification of the points of view), it’s my view that if you don’t like this practice, you should not buy the product. We are not forced to buy Intel’s products, and can vote with our dollars.

      • AirPillo says:

        I believe they’re entitled to do this, but also that they’re not entitled to have their locks protected by law. I think that’d count as a moderate position. Intel can f*** with their supply all they want and purchasers can f*** with their own property however they want.

        If they sell these as they are, and most people don’t bother to crack it and dethrottle the CPUs, then they’re entitled to the benefits of the attempt. If customers snip the locks off of the property they now own and Intel goes bawwwing to the authorities that First Sale makes them sad pandas, well, too bad. Even if they go through a lot of voodoo to claim they’re licensing something to you the customer’s expectation is they’re purchasing something to own, and they do perpetuate that impression, therefore it’s damned reasonable to respect the sovereignty of a purchaser over their own property.

        If Intel told me I wasn’t allowed to overclock my 2.4GHz q6600 to 3.2 GHz, which it runs at quite nicely, because of the opportunity cost of not selling me one with that speed from the factory, I’d tell them to go f*** a cactus, and that’s as much right as they have to control the goods after sale.

        If they want to try and screw me, let them, I have the right to screw them right back. If they choose to use a lower price as incentive to be screwed, well it’s their loss for choosing that approach to supply.

  28. jeremynyc says:

    When I was a kid, in the 70s, one of the many things I took apart was a calculator. Once I got the case off, there were two or three buttons on the PCB that had not been usable, because the case didn’t have spots for buttons. I remember marveling, with my dad, at the fact that a company would do that.

    Feels even more evil when it’s a software block on the extra power.

    But it’s just capitalism.

  29. Chevan says:

    I like the article, but I have one issue with the fourth paragraph, where you go through the logical implications of such a DRM policy as applied to other industries.

    I believe the intention of that paragraph was to present the logical outcomes of the policy in a manner that shows the outcome as absurd and the policy flawed, correct? I believe that is a flawed line of reasoning that will only be effective in further convincing people who either already agree with you that the policy is flawed or who are on the fence regarding the policy. I believe people who believe the policy is beneficial and sound will be rather confused or just flat out ignore that paragraph, because their belief in the policy would lead them to consider those outcomes as just and normal.

  30. Chap Phileum says:

    “The prophecy of the event leads to the event of the prophecy.” (Paul Watzlawick 1984)

    The business companies’ permanent fear of customers breaking DRM will literally breed costumers breaking their DRM. I am referring to what is known as self-fulfilling prophecies by Paul Watzlawick. It’s a process of a reaction (like counteractive measures) to a supposition enhancing or even putting it into reality itself.

    It’s a psychological phenomenon and it makes sence. For instance: As too many people evade tax, the state income is insufficient. To fill the financial gap the tax is being raised. But those higher rates, again, lead to more people trying to conceal their earnings.

    As business models intensify on crippling products with DRM, the consumers will increasingly tend to break their constricions and as a side effect become more tech-savvy and even more liberal-minded.

  31. jeremynyc says:

    When I was a kid, in the 70s, one of the many things I took apart was a calculator. Once I got the case off, there were two or three buttons on the PCB that had not been usable, because the case didn’t have spots for buttons. I remember marveling, with my dad, at the fact that a company would do that.

    Feels even more evil when it’s a software block on the extra power.

    But it’s just capitalism.

  32. Cefeida says:

    This all reminds me of the cheaper Apple upgrade to Snow Leopard which was supposed to be for previous owners of Leopard, but was actually the exact same disc as a fresh install. I had the same dilemma. Knowing that I could get the exact same product at two different prices, and that it would work exactly the same way, was there any moral issue with me buying the one that cost less?

    I think that regardless of whether the analogies fit, the big issue lies here:

    “One thing remains to be seen: will Intel try to sue people who figure out how to unlock their processors without paying Intel? ”

    There is nothing morally wrong with them crippling their own products in order to sell them as lower range. Their products, their business, their marketing model. However I think that when a customer takes such a product home, it is no longer their business. It is up to that customer to decide how much use he can get out of it. If I can make something I own work better, without stealing anything beyond what I bought…see Apple problem above. I ended up buying just the upgrade because I think it would be silly not to.

    …of course here we hit the problem with companies insisting that software is leased and not purchased. What I keep wondering is, is this REALLY worth the fight for them? I mean, will they really lose so much money if they let people use their products in whatever way they choose? Or will they win the fight with piracy by taking away the only decent argument software pirates hold?

  33. Anonymous says:

    This is an interesting clash between the basic economics of “charge what the customer thinks it’s worth” vs. the basic human need for the illusion that the price to us is related to the cost to produce.

    Look how many people in the comments are clearly happier that AMD destroys extra capabilities to make a low end part rather than simply locks it out.

    The reality is the price and cost are in the first-order, ESSENTIALLY UNRELATED. This applies to hotel rooms, airline travel, coffee, *everything*. The *only* thing that matters is what you’re willing to pay.

    In the very long term, of course, price gradually relates to cost as competitors that can lower price will eventually do so (and companies for whom cost is higher than willingness to pay go bankrupt). But that’s over months and years, not what the price you see today.

    Now, having said that, people’s need for the illusion is so strong, that companies that shatter that illusion by exposing that basic truth (like Intel here) risk enraging their customers. The *larger* truth may be that customers are happier willing to pay more for less (like no upgrade capability) as long as you don’t make them face the truth.

    • Anonymous says:

      Both AMD and Intel have historically crippled processors for lower price points, no surprise. Intel, however, has made it reversible and opened your processor to a backdoor attack.

      My hope is that the more litigious folks will address matters of unconscionable EULA’s vs. first sale doctrine in a class action lawsuit.

  34. Ranting Nerd says:

    Reminds me of the 486 SX vs. DX (sux vs. deluxe) setup, where the SX and DX were (at least allegedly) from the same die, but the SX were the ones where the FPU was disabled — it was not clear early on whether this was due to flaws in the fab process or deliberate crippling, although I think later 486SX models simply had the FPU missing.

    At least that was up-front, though, and could be argued that it was making better use of resources. This is just rent-seeking behavior, pure and simple.

    AMD could really use this to make up some ground….

  35. Anonymous says:

    Maybe Siva Vaidhyanathan will see the value proposition in my business model: He can pay me not to hit him over the head with a tire iron. Because I’m going to do so, and the only way for him to unlock the non-tire iron “experience” is for him to pay me.

    Clearly there’s value there, and, “if value, then right”.

  36. Anonymous says:

    I just lost alot of respect for Intel.

  37. chip says:

    I am annoyed by the desire of all mediamongers to “license” their wares instead of selling them, but I understand it. It makes some sense for a product that is both ephemeral and infinitely copyable, such as software, music or video.

    However, I cannot abide these attempts to license physical objects. Either you sell a widget, or you do not. You cannot charge money for a device AND maintain control over it. Once a physical item is sold to a customer, it is theirs to do with as they wish. Anything less is to completely throw out the millenia-old concept of ownership.

    If Intel wants to cut costs by producing just one chip and selling it with certain features disabled, that is fine. But they cannot complain when people figure out how to unlock those features for free. They sold a physical object with all the extra transistors in place. The customer owns those transistors, and they can do whatever they want with them. Intel doesn’t include those extra bits because they’re doing their customers a favor – they’re doing it to SAVE MONEY. If the result of streamlining their manufacturing process is that a few hobbyists figure out how to get some extra functionality out of the chips, then that’s the cost of cost-cutting.

    If Ford decided to streamline its assembly line by installing every option into every car, but disconnecting the buttons that control the options a customer didn’t pay for, would they have the right to complain if you plugged them in yourself? “Yes this car has a sunroof, but if you want us to hook up the button that opens it, it’ll cost you an extra $800. Oh, and if you hook it up yourself, we’ll sue you for intellectual property theft and breach of the license agreement.” How well do you think that would go over?

  38. carljohnson says:

    The upside of this policy would be the ability to demand producer responsibility — if they’re only licensing use, and not really selling us anything, and it belongs to them, then it should go back to them when it’s done. All my old phones, computers, consoles, monitors would be the producer’s responsibility, instead of my local government’s.

  39. hxa7241 says:

    The charging for ‘value’ idea is nonsense. It is about *cost*. Ideally, the charge should cover the cost and no more. Otherwise, the public is being deprived — of a benefit they could otherwise have had at no cost to anyone — and someone is getting unneededly rich. That is of course the aim of corporations, but it is not what economics is rightly about.

    It is all made possible because they enjoy the artificial monopoly of IP — so can avoid a free market and avoid competition. That is corporations, isn’t it: they pay various think-tanks and PR agents to laud the greatness of the free market, but do whatever they can to avoid it themselves.

  40. michael holloway says:

    “lugnuts”

    :)

  41. keighvin says:

    If I bought it it’s mine, *especially* with a physical commodity, and will do with it whatever I @#$& well please.

    Get off my lawn.

  42. Anonymous says:

    It’s not DRM, but it does use all the same technology: you run an application supplied by Intel on your computer, which builds a secure-against-you data channel between Intel’s corporate servers and the most intimate parts of property you bought, paid for, and own, and twiddles some bits in the firmware in a way that would offend the vendor if you did it yourself. There is absolutely no difference between this and carrier-locked cell phones from the hardware’s point of view–except cell phones have a DMCA exception for the next three years, while Intel CPUs don’t.

    Intel probably can afford to build proper crypto into the CPU so the upgrade application software could be open source (note that you still need authorization from Intel, so an open-source upgrade program doesn’t necessarily mean free CPU upgrades); however, smaller gadget vendors will probably take the lazy route and put the firmware that runs the device in binary-only driver software which they will expect to be fully encumbered by the DMCA (and, since it’s computer software, it will be).

    There are already a number of devices on the market whose crippling defects magically go away as soon as you start using them with Linux instead of Windows or MacOS. Sooner or later someone’s going to get sued over that, if they haven’t been already.

  43. Anonymous says:

    Cory wrote, “the company’s best customers are hobbyists who buy Intel processors directly in order to upgrade their PCs.”

    This is quite an extraordinary claim that is completely unbelievable without supporting data.

  44. Sean Eric FAgan says:

    Back in the days when minis and mainframes were king, this happened all the time. (A couple of posters have referred to it.) Usually, the microcode for the lower-end machines would have extra NOPs for each instruction, to slow it down; the higher-end machines didn’t, and, of course, you could do an upgrade by getting a new microcode tape.

    The reason this made a lot more sense at the time was, due to the design times (and significantly less competition), it only made sense to design the fastest (and therefore most expensive) machine you possibly could, and then to make a differentiated product line based off that.

    (I’m not trying to justify Intel’s action here; I think it’s fairly unpleasant.)

  45. Anonymous says:

    One good example is in the link below, how could even affect our war planes, radar and our computer grid. The American government right this moment is looking for kill switch in many of their war toys, if this could send the government into a frenzy imagine what it could be done to us.

    Sorry, the link in the post above for this article is wrong the right on is this.

    http://spectrum.ieee.org/semiconductors/design/the-hunt-for-the-kill-switch

  46. kairo says:

    I can’t muster any outrage here.

    This is also, most certainly, NOT DRM!

    There is nothing that is limiting the consumer’s ability to use the item they purchased (at the specs they paid for) in any way they wish, nothing that will cause it to stop working after a certain length of time or prevent them from reselling the product when they wish to do so down the line.

    All this “feature” does is allow more complete access to a CPU that was sold as a lower spec to fill demand. I’m sorry if it’s somehow painful to see what’s been a common practice for a couple decades be laid bare in a commercialized manner, but that’s really all that Intel is doing. They’ve been dumbing-down good processors and selling them cheaply for a long time.

    I can see things possibly going wrong with this plan, especially if the method to unlocking a better CPU’s potential is software-controlled, and not something that physically and permanently unlocks the processor.

  47. inness says:

    Why is it that pro-rapacious business zealots always trot out the ‘free enterprise’ cliche when they want to screw their customers? Are we so naive that anyone believes that ‘free’ enterprise can actually exist? If so, I’ve got an unbiased media outlet called Fox to see you. Cheap.

  48. OrcOnTheEndOfMyFork says:

    Isn’t there a huge backfire to a scheme like this?

    If Intel insists they still own your processor after you buy it, does that not, in turn, make them liable for anything damage that’s done with an Intel-chipped computer? If someone commits a crime with a computer with an Intel chip, couldn’t Intel be sued by the victims for the damaged caused? And if so, wouldn’t it be in their best interest not to expose themselves to that level of liability?

  49. inness says:

    That’s what I get for typing without my glasses. I actually have a media outlet called Fox to ‘SELL’ you. It’s far and unbiased. Says so right on my television screen. Must sell now. Reply for photos.

  50. Thebes says:

    Dear Intel,
    This is a popular blog so I assume you have some kind of rep reading this thread and it’s responses.

    I will NOT buy crippled hardware. I’ve passed up crippled hardware before. The only real exception to this is if I can, and often I can, decripple it on my own- thus costing the smacktards trying to exploit me their intended “value” and adding “value” for me.

    I suspect I am not alone, and often in this kind of moral decision against corporofascism I encourage others including my blog readers and podcast listeners.

    Just thought your bosses might like to know their idiot ideas for increasing income might have unforeseen factors.

  51. Anonymous says:

    beautifully well put cory..beautiful.

  52. Calladus says:

    This sounds like economic Feudalism.

    The Lords in the Fiefdom of Intel have allowed Vassals like you and me to use the Fief’s goods – but we are not given ownership, and our Lord will tax us and require us to protect his property.

  53. Anonymous says:

    To all those who want to go buy AMD parts after hearing this: What do you think the AMD x3 is? It is simply a 4 core part with one core that is bad. It is sold as an x3 so that AMD can make money even if their yields are bad. Now, don’t you think there are times where the yields improve, and AMD gets 4 good cores? Do they give you an extra core free when you buy an x3 when their yields are good? Obviously not. They disable it and sell you the x3.

    The car analogies all don’t work properly. In a car, you literally get what you build. In a chip, you have no clue what you are getting until you test the part.

  54. Anonymous says:

    DRM in a chip, there goes your security, it’s proprietary software doing this. This means you cant see or know what its really doing.
    Scary stuff!!

  55. biophile says:

    The Canadian Navy recently purchased new coastal patrol vessels that have Caterpillar engines. Then engines are built and installed with 12 cylinders each…only 8 of which are functional unless an unlock code is entered by an engineer into the engines control panel. Same thing?

  56. Anonymous says:

    Well, I was going to build my next computer on Intel, thinking maybe some of my “glitchy” issues have been because I’m relying on AMD processors. After all, Intel has always presented this “professional” atmosphere from what I’ve seen.

    Yeah, that just went out the window. I will specifically avoid buying Intel products until they revoke this model.

  57. Astragali says:

    On reflection, things could be so much worse. Intel could have charged a subscription fee to keep the chip unlocked… I hope nobody from Intel is reading this. I might just have put an idea in their head.

  58. Coal says:

    I think the real issue here is not so much that they’ve crippled a product, but what they will do when a workaround starts to appear on the internet. It’s not a digital lock so the DCMA doesn’t apply. And the chip is private property so it isn’t breaking any license agreement.

    To take the car analogy, if a manufacturer sells you a car potentially capable of 150mph and 1-60 in 4 seconds, but has restricted it to 120mph and 1-60 in 7 seconds at purchase, but offer tune-ups for $50 to get it to or close to capacity, and you then find a way to tune the engine to get the maximum performance out of it yourself, then good for you. You can write and sell a book on how to do it and they can’t do a thing.

    Taking the cable channel analogy, if they encode the channels so you can only receive the ones you’ve paid for, and you find a way to decode them and get them free, and publish your results, you’ll get in a shit load of trouble.

    The two analogies are not interchangeable. To apply a third analogy, I could walk up to a newsstand and purchase a copy of The Daily Mail. Once I’ve purchased it, I’m free to set fire to it, stamp on it, spit on it, and watch it burn to the ground right there (within the laws relating to public fires and spitting). One could also (wrongly) argue that since I’m already buying The Daily Mail, and the newsstand stocks all the other major papers, that I’m entitled to also take them for free because they’re there and burn them to the ground also.

    The Intel chip is a physical property. when you purchase it, you own it. If you can find a way to improve its performance, then that is your business. If you want to put information on the internet about how to improve its performance so that others may do likewise, then they really don’t have a say in it, because it’s none of their business what I do with MY chip, or anybody else does with THEIR chip. At worst, they can void the warranty, and that’s always been the way it’s done.

    However, as they’ve gone this far in creating a “premium” upgrade system, they obviously have some system in mind of protecting it, and what worries me is how that system will be reflected in law.

  59. TNGMug says:

    The issue here is that if you own an object, you don’t pay for specs, you pay for the object. Opening the door to this kind of concept of ownership really is two steps from slavery because all of a sudden it’s somebody’s else’s business what you are or aren’t doing with everything in your house.

    Honestly I’m a lot MORE comfortable with intel damaging processors to sell them with lower specs then with this. You want to damage your own property in order to sell it to people with less means, that’s your business. You take the risk – you smash up your cars windsheild because the guy who wants to buy it doesn’t have the asking price, then see if you can still sell it. Do it when it’s yours. Here we’re trying to get it both ways. Selling the widgets on the lower market without taking the risk of removing them from the upper market.

  60. lvdata says:

    Intel has a huge FIXED cost of research and development and plant building. The cost of a chip last time I looked at it was under $5(for a P4). The cost of the newer 32nm plant is in the billions. Making 1 chip and then disabling it is much cheaper then making several different designs and the testing that goes into it. Look into binning, and also how AMD disables cores that don’t pass Q&A. This is a natural extension of binning, for when yields go way up and they all high end CPUs. Yes it appears to be some form of DRM, but it is just the way chips are made. Who else wants the alternative of a glut of $1000 I7 3.3Ghz and few of the cheaper I3 because they all pass the testing with all cores and features working?

  61. Anonymous says:

    AMD is my answer for any of Intel’s shenanigans. Money talks loudest.

  62. TNGMug says:

    At any rate, I’m trying to make a point about supply and demand. The “Utility = Chargeabilty” or “Value = pay” absurdity is completely spot-on in this respect. For one thing it blatantly discourages utility in the same way that “to each according to his needs, from each according to his ability” discourages ability and promotes need. For two it doesn’t conform to supply-side or demand-side economics in any way shape or form. It reduces the need to create supply because why make more widgets when we can keep inventing new ways to charge for the ones we’ve already made? Why manufacture expensive supply when you can cheaply use government intellectual-property laws to manufacture demand? (Which is what this totally is, they’re creating a demand to extra fees for something the widget already does).

    Manufacturers used to be able to make more by, craziness, manufacturing. Supply was their business, not demand. The whole idea of this business model is to restrict supply and (legislatively) increase demand. Now they’re making demand their business too, when it really ought to be up to the consumer.

  63. TNGMug says:

    At any rate, I’m trying to make a point about supply and demand. The “Utility = Chargeabilty” or “Value = pay” absurdity is completely spot-on in this respect. For one thing it blatantly discourages utility in the same way that “to each according to his needs, from each according to his ability” discourages ability and promotes need. For two it doesn’t conform to supply-side or demand-side economics in any way shape or form. It reduces the need to create supply because why make more widgets when we can keep inventing new ways to charge for the ones we’ve already made? Why manufacture expensive supply when you can cheaply use government intellectual-property laws to manufacture demand? (Which is what this totally is, they’re creating a demand to extra fees for something the widget already does).

    Manufacturers used to be able to make more by, craziness, manufacturing. Supply was their business, not demand. The whole idea of this business model is to restrict supply and (legislatively) increase demand. Now they’re making demand their business too, when it really ought to be up to the consumer.

  64. Anonymous says:

    The reason for why I disapprove is they are making a profit on selling you an artificially limited product, with the intention to charge more money for removing the artificial limit.
    It’s like “network locks” on phones, you have to pay to switch carrier.

    This is bad, because it means that I do not *REALLY* own the hardware that I bought if I’m not allowed to try to tamper with it myself! If they are going to enforce some kind of DRM to stop tampering, it effectively means that they are not really selling the CPUs, only renting them to you.

    And if that’s the case, it should be ILLEGAL for them to claim that they are selling it, they should be FORCED to put the words “FOR RENTING ONLY, YOU DO NOT OWN IT” on it.

  65. Anonymous says:

    This is fantastic! Intel is willing to sell me a processor at $50 off, and all I have to do is crack (or wait for some other hacker to crack) the DRM? That’s a good buy in my book. Defective-by-design products with unlockable features are begging to be broken open, at great value to the end user. You’re effectively paying me $50 to learn how to crack your DRM. Keep it coming!

  66. enkiv2 says:

    How the hell does it make business sense to damage your own perfectly good devices and then sell them for cheaper? I can understand how soft-disabling something and then charging for an upgrade makes sense (and I suppose this also makes business sense if the retail price is very significantly greater than the price for manufacture — ten or fifteen times), but couldn’t you just manufacture the chips you are manufacturing, avoid disabling functions, and sell them for a slightly higher price to get both the cheap-and-low-end market and the expensive-and-high-end market without needing to worry about it?

  67. great says:

    The linked article mentions binning, and claims that it’s due to certain parts of the chip being defective, but if that’s always the case, then why do some motherboards advertise their ability to unlock cores?

    Seems like this is pretty much the same thing – hardware manufacturer wants to access a larger part of the market, but they don’t want to sell a full-featured chip at the lowest price, so they lock parts of it. Assembly lines are expensive.

    • Chinny Racoon says:

      It’s down to the yield you get when making processors- You will get some very well performing chips, which become the high end, a mass of ok ones and then some that run at slower speeds or have defective cores/cache etc. As the numbers can vary, the manufacturer works out a proportion so X are packaged as supergamerXXX/Server processors, a larger number are packaged as midrange and the faulty core/slower performing become the cheapest. As the yield of production has got better, there are less “faulty” chips and they have a much more consistent batch , so the manufacturer will disable a core/cache to market a processor at the low end without stealing sales from the higher priced ones.

      If you have a motherboard that can enable the extra core then there is a good chance that you can. Not guaranteed though.

      I’ve got a Sempron 270 that was marketed as a single core CPU, and the only one on an AM3 socket. It’s just an Athlon II X2 with a core turned off. For less than £50 (Motherboard and CPU) I had a pretty quick dual core.

  68. Sagodjur says:

    “What if Dell asserted “If value, then right,” and told its customers that they had only purchased the right to run their PCs as-is, an if they wanted a faster processor, they’d have to pay Dell to unlock this latent value?”

    Dell actually already did something like this with their motherboards. Their motherboards were incompatible with standard cases and vice versa. So if you wanted to upgrade your motherboard, you’d have to buy it from them.

    I hear they finally stopped doing this recently though.

  69. Anonymous says:

    If you make the key you load into the CPU copyrighted material e.g. a poem (and encrypted too so the PIN decrypts it) then you could make an interesting DMCA claim that circumvention has taken place. Or you could make a copyright claim on the poem if it is redistributed. A bit like Apple and the poem in Mac OS X that was required for the PPC to x86 jitter to work.

    http://www.informationweek.com/news/security/cybercrime/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=180203091

    I think a clever lawyer could make this work.

    • HarveyBoing says:

      Apple’s poem has nothing to do with enabling copyright protection. OS X is already protected under copyright law, with or without a poem.

      On the other hand, even if you could argue that the key itself is copyrighted material (which seems a stretch to me), the key can’t possibly be protecting itself, and so the key isn’t what’s being protected by the DRM, and thus discovering the key by whatever means can’t violate whatever presumed copyright the key might enjoy.

  70. HarveyBoing says:

    As much as I hate DRM and the restrictions on copyrighted content, I have a hard time getting worked up over this.

    I don’t buy the analogies. Intel isn’t saying that you can’t use your CPU with its inherent capabilities for something for which it wasn’t intended; they are saying they’ve sold a CPU with certain capabilities and they don’t want you stealing the higher potential in the chip. This is more like a filter on your analog cable TV hookup that blocks certain channels, or an addressable set-top-box that blocks channels you didn’t pay for, than it is like a tin can being repurposed for something else.

    Beyond that, frankly this is an _improvement_ for the consumer over the way it used to be done. Intel used to take a perfectly good chip and physically damage sections (or identify chips with non-working sections, due to manufacturing defects) of it in order to disable functionality. Want to upgrade? You have to buy a whole new chip. Good luck recovering your costs on the old chip.

    With this approach, you don’t actually have to get a new physical piece of hardware. You just use the key to unlock the higher capabilities. This benefits Intel, the consumer, and the environment all at the same time. Of all the uses of DRM, it seems like one of the most benign.

    • nexusheli says:

      So what you’re saying is that you would be ok with Chevrolet selling you a Corvette ZR1, as is with its V8 and supercharger already installed, but telling you that you can only use it with 6 of the 8 cylinders, and you have to pay extra to use the supercharger?

      Or for Logitech to sell you a Harmony remote, with all its buttons already installed, but if you want to use the 4 programmable buttons you have to pay extra for the software to do so?

      Or for your local builder to sell you a house with 4 beds and 3 baths, but to lock you out of 1 bed and 1 bath, and they’ll sell you the key for an extra $10k? Even though you can pick the lock…?

      The analogies make perfect sense to anyone in their right mind. When you buy a product with certain expectations of that product, its not right for the company to charge you extra for those expectations. What do you think consumer groups would do if computer manufacturers suddenly started selling laptops without an OS or software installed?

      • Anonymous says:

        “its not right for the company to charge you extra for those expectations.”

        No it isn’t. So the question is really: do you know, before you buy, how the CPU really performs, or are you misled, and you can only reach that potential if you buy the upgrade too?

        It seems you’re saying that you’re mislead. THAT would be bad, but I don’t think that’s the case here.

        Robert

      • Chinny Racoon says:

        These aren’t sold as having the feature (HT) included. A more correct analogy (Sigh) would be a car where you can buy a ‘Performance’ pack which is just an ECU remap. VAG Diesels are pretty like this.

      • HarveyBoing says:

        So what you’re saying is that you would be ok with Chevrolet selling you a Corvette ZR1, as is with its V8 and supercharger already installed…

        Or for Logitech to sell you a Harmony remote, with all its buttons already installed…

        Or for your local builder to sell you a house with 4 beds and 3 baths…

        Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.

        No one’s forcing the consumer to buy anything. If they do buy a car, or a remote, or a house that were manufactured with features that are still blocked from being used, then they made a choice to pay a certain price for certain features.

        In reality, only the remote example even comes close to being likely. Economic realities will prevent a car manufacturer or home builder from manufacturing a product with more features than they are being paid for. And in fact, those same economic realities are why this approach works for CPUs, and why they might work for remotes.

        But regardless, if as a consumer I have to choose between purchasing a product that can never work better than it already works, and one that can be made to work better at a price much smaller than a full upgrade to a completely different manufactured product, how is it better for me to have only the choice of a complete replacement, rather than enhanced performance at a much smaller incremental cost?

        The bottom line here: show me how the consumer is hurt. How are they worse off under this scheme than before? Hint: they aren’t.

        • TNGMug says:

          The flaw in your argument is that people don’t buy features, they buy items (and there’s a good reason for that, all the analogies Cory wrote in his article very accurately made the point that what constitutes a “feature” or utility, is completely subjective, you can hang around all day thinking of “features” [ie inventing invoice charges] and not actually produce anything) . Also, it’s not incidental “economic realities” that prevent overproduction, it’s some very basic, and crucial supply-side economics.

          That *perhaps* it’s cheaper to make a good one and turn it into a bad one is more economical isn’t economics, it’s government intervention. Without the DRM-like laws floating around preventing us from personally preforming such upgrades without paying, chances are Intel wouldn’t be trying this at all. I have no problem with anybody selling anything any way they want to. I do have a problem with someone “selling” something to me and retaining ownership rights, or the government facilitating lopsided rental contracts to which it’s shouted “oh well you agreed to it”.

          So I suppose we have two issues on our hands. Installing parts that don’t work appears wasteful on the surface, and many people here have, more or less, pointed to why it’s not. I’m ok with that. But if Chevy puts their supercharger in MY car, even disabled, it’s mine – end of story. Believe you me I’m sure I can find a mechanic and a machinist that can get it going cheaper then any GM stealership would. That’s that beautiful little thing known as a competitive marketplace.

          • HarveyBoing says:

            Without the DRM-like laws floating around preventing us from personally preforming such upgrades without paying, chances are Intel wouldn’t be trying this at all.

            As has been pointed out more than once already, DMCA doesn’t apply here. The DRM doesn’t lock any copyrighted material, nor would enabling the enhanced performance constitute a copyright violation.

            What does apply is contract law, and if you signed a contract with Chevy that said you agreed to not make use of the supercharger unless you paid them more money than your initial purchase price, you would be in just as much legal trouble with Chevy as with Intel should you decide to circumvent the technical protections they’ve put in place for their contract with you.

            The technical protections are simply a way of helping you stay honest. What you really need to be concerned about is violating your contract.

            Honestly, the repeated attempts to use an automotive analogy are just stupid. There’s no economic way such a business model would work in that situation. But, should a car manufacturer in fact do what Intel’s doing in spite of the poor economics, they would have the same exact and valid right and expectation of compliance that Intel does.

            I don’t know what it is about the Internet that has created all of you folks that think it’s okay to enter into a contract and then just flaut it, but my parents raised me better than that. I don’t make agreements that I’m not willing to abide by.

          • social_maladroit says:

            I don’t know what it is about the Internet that has created all of you folks that think it’s okay to enter into a contract and then just flaut it, but my parents raised me better than that. I don’t make agreements that I’m not willing to abide by.

            Just because you buys a computer from Gateway with a particular model of Intel CPU does not mean that you’re entering into a contract with Intel regarding the use of that CPU. Or have you seen Intel employees with clipboards hanging around the Gateway section at Best Buy stores? “Now if you’ll just sign here…”

            This situation isn’t as black and white as Cory makes it out to be because, presumably, Gateway tells you what the CPU specs are prior to your purchase. You get to choose whether to buy it or not with your eyes open.

            OTOH, many of the articles about this say that Intel’s “artificially” crippled the CPU. That makes sense, since they have to be certain that their $50 “upgrade” will unlock the CPU’s features in all cases. So it’s not a matter of Intel selling “binned” CPUs.

          • Anonymous says:

            The kind of “sale” you are talking about is exactly the sort of perversion of the usually well-understood idea of transferral of property that I think Cory is railing against here.

            What you described enshrined in the terms of this contract seem more like a rental agreement or licensing agreement rather than the transferral of property from one individual to another through sale.

            I’m no lawyer so I don’t know what the usual laws are regarding a sale or how it differs to other sorts of contractual agreements. But I’ve never had to sign a contract to buy a stick of gum or any other physical item I can recall (except when accompanied by some financial service, like a loan or credit).

          • HarveyBoing says:

            What you described enshrined in the terms of this contract seem more like a rental agreement or licensing agreement rather than the transferral of property from one individual to another through sale.

            Indeed, that’s true. And if Intel doesn’t somehow include a contract that requires the user to not reenable the disabled functionality, they have no way to enforce their disabling of the functionality.

            That said, courts have found EULAs to be enforceable contracts, and those don’t require an explicitly signed contract in the conventional sense.

            I simply don’t see any reason that just because the thing being sold is tangible rather than intangible that it thus cannot come with a EULA or similar contract restricting its use.

            And for those who don’t like it? No problem. Don’t do business with Intel. That’s not just your right as a consumer; it’s your obligation.

    • Anonymous says:

      “I don’t buy the analogies. Intel isn’t saying that you can’t use your CPU with its inherent capabilities for something for which it wasn’t intended; they are saying they’ve sold a CPU with certain capabilities and they don’t want you stealing the higher potential in the chip”

      Artificially crippling your product and making customers pay to uncripple it sucks.

      It’s like selling you a car that can only go 30 miles an hour, and then making you pay more to remove the wooden block underneath the the gas pedal so it can be depressed all the way. Or paying extra so that the radio can be turned up a little more.

      The “higher potential” is ALREADY there, but they’ve spent money to make sure you can’t access it. Yes, they actually paid their design team to take the time to create an artificial barrier to normal use. That’s pretty shady, if you ask me. It’s a shameful way to rip off your customers, and your labeling it “stealing” is a bogus argument.

      Maybe you *like* the idea of paying more to “unlock” the higher frequencies in you music to you can listen to the “better sounding” version? Because there’s no real difference between the two concepts, and that’s what this sort of thing will inevitably lead to.

    • Gruff says:

      Have to agree with HarveyBoing – the analogies don’t fit here. This is just a way to improve the distribution chain and installation costs which add cost to any sale of CPU power. They’re not limited the use of the power they’re selling you, they’re offering a smart, efficient way to upgrade capabilities.

      A more correct DVD analogy would be to be sold a film which had a ‘making of documentary’ locked inside it (as opposed to sold separately in the store) and if you want to buy that too, to save you a trip back to the store, you can buy a numeric key which allows you to own that too.

  71. Anonymous says:

    I’m a big intel fanboy, but if they don’t abandon this bullshit, I am going AMD next upgrade. I don’t care if intel will have the faster processor.

  72. Anonymous says:

    Just because you don’t like it means that it is “anti private-property.” It is an example of property rights being exercised to the fullest— they make the product, they determine what is done with it afterward, whether they lease, sell, rent, or dump it into a mineshaft. Do not confuse greed with any sort of “anti-private-property” sentiment. It’s a feature of private property, not a bug (so to speak), especially given today’s neoliberal political climate.

    When you fight for the commons in any way, you fight against the interests of capital; it might serve you well to read up on some relevant criticism [*koff koff* zizek] and arm yourself with coherent terminology & ideology instead of tortured phrases like “If value, then right.”

    • inness says:

      “The interests of capital?” Ayn (not Anon), you dogged, self-serving old bitch, how the hell are you?!
      The underpinning of this asinine logic is, of course, ‘I own the assembly line, screw you if you don’t ‘want’ to buy the X product I produce.’ This, of course, is equally underpinned by the apocalyptic ‘business’ philosophy which dictates that every profit-making enterprise is required to continually monopolize their market in order to create the greatest total growth; i.e., the biggest pile wins.
      Bullshit. Business doesn’t need this Industrial Revolution/Aristocracy ideology to win. Note how the political is driven home to ‘prove’ a twisty little point.
      This world view is what will see civilization fighting water wars within the next generation if not fought now.
      ‘Fer us or agin us,’ is not a liveable stance, only a back-slapping talking point on the golf course, Oh Brave Anon!

    • regeya says:

      ‘Just because you don’t like it means that it is “anti private-property.” It is an example of property rights being exercised to the fullest— they make the product, they determine what is done with it afterward, whether they lease, sell, rent, or dump it into a mineshaft. Do not confuse greed with any sort of “anti-private-property” sentiment. It’s a feature of private property, not a bug (so to speak), especially given today’s neoliberal political climate.’

      Oh, so Orwellian.

      Non-ownership is an exercise of ownership to its fullest. Riiiight.

      The issue is that, once I purchase a processor from Intel, I should be able to do with it what I wish (barring illegal activity, and that’s not Intel’s problem.) I should be allowed to warm a ham sandwich with an Intel processor if I so wish. If Intel calls the shots, legally, then it stands to reason that Intel retains ownership, I am not the owner, I am merely a renter–a renter who can’t simply give it back when it quits working after the warranty period is over, I might add.

      (Warning–I’m about to go all anarcho-capitalist, and the only time I do that is with computer stuff. I disagree with them on many points, but I agree with them here.)

      The only way such schemes work in the real world is for the government to use its violence to back up companies such as Intel. Without the brute force of the law, or barring that without Intel having hired mercenaries, it’s a relatively simple manner for someone to break the processor’s code, or to break my BD player’s HDCP code, and so on. What makes it “impossible” is when I can do jail time and/or pay financially crippling fees for doing so.

    • TNGMug says:

      “It is an example of property rights being exercised to the fullest— they make the product, they determine what is done with it afterward, whether they lease, sell, rent, or dump it into a mineshaft. ”

      There is a major flaw in your argument which I’m surprised isn’t obvious to anybody.

      It’s this word “sell”. You see, when you “sell” something, it means that the “property rights”, which you use to justify the behaviour are TRANSFER ED to the buyer. That’s what selling IS. Just like throwing something in a mineshaft (unless it’s hour mineshaft) or a landfill constitutes disownership – the willing release of said property rights to anybody who cares to come and claim them.

      Under your logic there is in fact, no way to be granted any property rights to anything you yourself didn’t invent. And good luck with that if you don’t happen to personally be a large multinational corporation. Oh sure they’ll still rent/lease us their stuff, otherwise what’s the point, and in fact that’s just goes to prove it – the goal being the elimination of consumer property rights. It’s their world and you’re going to work your but off to be allowed to temporarily live in it and use their stuff for a price. Techno-sharecropping.

      • Anonymous says:

        I agree that your definition of ‘sale’ is the best. After the sale, full rights for use should be transferred to the buyer, who should then be able to count the object as her/his own property. This requires a heavy hand from the government on behalf of the buyer—a hand that would otherwise side against it (as we’ve seen with ACTA, the DMCA, etc, etc). There is no middle or neutral ground (this middle ground being the free market utopia we keep hearing about); whoever has the government on their side gets to decide what defines property and how it can be used. As it is, nobody in power is debating the legality or morality of “techno-sharecopping” and so it stands, for better or worse.

    • Anonymous says:

      - “Just because you don’t like it means that it is “anti private-property.” It is an example of property rights being exercised to the fullest”

      Can’t really agree with this sentiment. If the processor belongs to me, I should be able to do whatever I like with it. If its capabilities are merely licensed to me, I do not own it. So the question is: am I buying a processor, or am I licensing certain functions? If it is the latter, the concept is surely “anti private-property”.

      Arguably the concept of copyright is also anti private-property, in that we only licence works rather than own them. Using copyright to protect an artistic or intellectual work, however, seems different in spirit to using copyright law to restrict how a piece of hardware is used once it has been sold to someone else. To me it seems akin to Heinz using the law to prevent people from heating their beans without a licence; after all, you buy the beans cold, so why should you expect to eat hot Heinz beans without Heinz’s permission?

  73. Gilgongo says:

    Isn’t this the same as the “product road-mapping” sales process that consumer tech companies have always practised?

    When I was a teenager, I used to save up for effects pedals and home recording gear. It always seemed to be the case that when you bought an effect, synth, drum machine, etc. unit one year, the next year the company would put out a new version of it with an extra feature that made you want to buy it (“Oooh! With the Korg XR-2 you can apply *parametric* EQ to individual envelopes!”).

    You knew that they could have included that feature in last year’s model, but had been holding it back – presumably with a close eye on their competitors too.

  74. Anonymous says:

    It seems Intel is relying on no one being able to circumvent their protection.

    It seems a win-win situation here: If it is cheaper for Intel to manufacture a single product and sell it for two different prices it means that as a customer you are getting more for less. You still fully own the product you bought. You can also buy a CPU from AMD if you choose.

  75. Florian Mueller says:

    I agree that there must be a limit to CPU manufacturers’ control over what we do with (or for or to) our computers.

    Actually I’m less concerned about Intel’s DRM than about the way IBM price-discriminates by supplying “specialty coprocessors” for their mainframe platform. Those are full-fledged CPUs but IBM erected artificial barriers so that users can’t execute legacy workloads on them:
    http://fosspatents.blogspot.com/2010/08/two-faces-of-mainframe-different.html

    For the execution of legacy workloads, IBM charges roughly ten times as much, for the same level of performance.

    A company named NEON Enterprise Software developed a software solution to the problem, called zPrime, and IBM uses its intellectual property rights and contract terms to deprive customers of this important choice. That behavior has given rise to an antitrust suit in the US as well as antitrust complaints on both sides of the Atlantic.

    The European Commission is already investigating IBM’s conduct in the mainframe market ( http://fosspatents.blogspot.com/2010/07/european-commission-launches-antitrust.html ), but NEON’s complaint arrived just shortly before the investigation was launched, so they’re still at a preliminary stage and will likely decide in the months ahead on whether to also pick up NEON’s complaint (in my view, it would be a good thing to pursue that matter).

    At the end of the day, forceful antitrust intervention could help prevent at least the most anticompetitive, anti-innovative forms of abuse, and that would send a signal to all CPU manufacturers, also including Intel of course.

    • danegeld says:

      The locking mechanism here is used to recycle defective chips – when you start the production line, you make a four core chip, but you find that a typical die has a defect in one or two of the four cores. You could either throw those chips away or sell them as lower end chips, with the defective cores locked.

      Then when the manufacturing is optimised so that almost all the chips are flawless, you still have the mechanism to enable / disable cores present. e.g. this is a side effect of improvements in the manufacturing process, rather than Intel setting out to screw the user per se.

      IBM, and people who write software for mainframes, on the other hand really are in the business of bending their customers over a barrel.

      The hardware for their Z series all ship with the maximum RAM and maximum number of processors installed in the physical hardware. IBM then sell license codes to unlock RAM or unlock extra processors. E.g. they will sell you a unit with 128 processors, only of which 4 are enabled, and then ‘upgrade’ it.

      The crazy proposition is that apparently some IBM customers actually think they *want* that arrangement because they pay license fees for the software they use based on the number of processors available to run the workload, so that it’s cheaper for the customer who pays license fees on software to have IBM to sell them a piece of hardware that is initially 97% crippled, then sell them upgrade codes over the phone if and only if the workload increases.

      I think IBM and the dinosaurs must realise that linux/foss is going to blow them out of the water at some point, and they’re getting the money in hand over fist from companies who are locked in to their legacy systems while they still can.

      • S2 says:

        And yet IBM has been offering linux on Z for a decade (even partnering with SUSE and RHEL). IBM was a founding member of OSDL; laid groundwork for the Patent Commons Project with its disruptive “Technical Disclosure Bulletins,” stood up to SCO’s bullying with lawyers and money (no guns, AFAIK ;-), etc. In terms of linux and dinosaurs, IBM has been even friendlier than Barney….

  76. jacob_ewing says:

    I disagree that this would be analogous to cable subscriptions and the like. In those cases, they are filtering out services that are delivered through a common medium. In the case of these chips, they are filtering out capabilities.

    I think a more accurate analogy would be to buy a sports car that won’t shift into fifth until you buy an upgrade.

  77. Spikeles says:

    - New LCD Screen at 1024×768. Want higher resolution? Only an extra $50!
    - New Mouse with 2 buttons. The third button can be unlocked for a mere $5.
    - Awesome new keyboard, want those multimedia buttons? $20

    To be fair though, I can see the reason. Most hardware these days comes with missing or different pieces. My car for example, has an LCD speedo, but it won’t display half the interesting stuff because it doesn’t have a computer hooked to it that can use all the features so i just get a basic tach and speedo readout.

    For companies, i imagine it’s much cheaper to just use a single hardware assembly line and unlock in software, than to build a separate assembly line for each different value added “feature”.

  78. foobar says:

    I don’t have a problem with this. Intel’s business model already works this way; their cost to physically manufacture an i5 is no different than an i3.

    Plus, this will effectively give people a bonus for being technically literate enough to track down the inevitable crack. That makes me all warm inside.

  79. Thad E Ginataom says:

    Corections dept… you mean lisencEE

  80. Thad E Ginataom says:

    Corrections Dept: I mean Corrections!

  81. Anonymous says:

    I don’t see how the DMCA applies here, at least not section 1201. The circumvention of a copyright protection system is not relevant– what copyright claim does Intel have? There is nothing copyrighted… a CPU is not a work of creative expression.

  82. Anonymous says:

    The misuse of power through out history it is well documented.

    I see even more problems in the near future if the computer companies and government decide to implement this. When I spoke to to a friend a few year back about some disturbing laws in the making and I had a bad feeling about it, he dismissed the theory that it could be done, he said it could not and it would not happen, but seen Intel sand bridge I say it is biting our asses right now, I am posting the link below, I also emailed to my friend that said it could not happen and the people would not let it happen.

    I also watched a BBC series called “The Last Enemy” to show through fear and paranoia how government and corporation will be using and abusing the use of this technology, they are exploiting our fears and confusions, this series was made to open peoples eyes for what it is coming our way if we do not make our voices heard loud enough and close our wallet to their product.

    For sure they will be able to silence the voices of freedom just by turning off the switch on every computer and also our individuality, there will not be in the near future freedom of speech, if we give them this power.

    Kill switch, DRM and HDCP are the first steps to end of liberty, do not for a second be blinded that they are doing this to help us or secure our computers. They could care less about the user and in the long run, we the user will be the losers in this game. Game over.

    They would be able to control the internet and it contents, spread misinformation and lies, because my fellow computer user you would not have access to information any more, we would only have access to what they want us to know only and not always the truth.

    One good example is in the link below, how could even affect our war planes, radar and our computer grid. The American government right this moment is looking for kill switch in many of their war toys, if this could send the government into a frenzy imagine what it could be done to us.

    Power left unchecked on the hands of any government and corporation could lead us into a totalitarian government.

    I see the dark age of technology little by little descending on us.

    I do not fear the hackers the way I fear government and corporation dictating to me this new way of life with my freedom of choices gone.

    Sad part of it, I read a lot about it. Some people do not yet grasp at what really it is at stake. They are blinded by what they are offering without realizing how much we will lose.

    http://spectrum.ieee.org/semicondu [...] ill-switch
    http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~rja14/tcpa-faq.html

  83. Roger Strong says:

    People who do performance reviews and benchmarks take note:

    An honest review of an automobile measures the performance of a model as it comes from the factory. That you can get better performance by purchasing a bigger engine AFTER you take the car home is irrelevant.

    An honest review of a video card measures its performance as it comes from the factory. That you can purchase more RAM, AFTER you take it home is irrelevant.

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