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MS white paper says Palladium open, clean, not DRM

Quite plausibly, too. They're really trying very hard here...

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A final draft of Microsoft's Palladium consultation white paper appears to have escaped, and is currently being hosted by Neowin.net. Microsoft intends to open Palladium up for discussion, but it's not as yet clear to us whether this means it will be distributing the white paper to all and sundry, or whether it envisages a more restricted distribution list. In any event we haven't been able to nail down anywhere on the Microsoft site you can get it,* or any mention of the Microsoft Content Security Business Unit, which authored it.

There's much in the paper that's interesting, and it's even interesting that it's in PDF format, rather than Word - the authors are clearly having a bash at being ecumenical. Palladium, it stresses, is not an operating system, but a collection of trusted subsystems and components that are opt-in. You will not get the advantages of Palladium if you don't opt in, of course, but you don't have to. It's als some years off, but one of the objectives is to make "a Windows-based device a trustworthy environment for any data." Which is a tall order.

Software will have to be rewritten or specially developed to take advantage of Palladium, and software of this class is referred to as a Trusted Agent. Users will be able to separate their data into "realms," which are analogous to vaults and can have varying access and security criteria. The system does not need to know who you are, indeed doesn't really want to know who you are, because it's about verifying the identity of machines. So a company could identify an employee's home machine for secure operation remotely on the corporate network.

Then it gets really interesting. "Palladium will not require Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology, and DRM will not require Palladium... They are separate technologies." Now, we know they don't need to be separate technologies, we know that Palladium could enhance DRM considerably, and we suspect that at least some people at Microsoft would take this route if they thought they could get away with it. But the authors here seem to have concluded that Palladium will not fly if it has a whiff of DRM about it, and are determined to distance themselves. This is good, people, if we all keep shouting 'DRM bad!' they stand a chance of not having their minds changed for them.

Deeper into the Department of Bizarre Revolutions we have: "A Palladium system will be open at all levels." The hardware will "run any TOR" (Trusted Operating Root), the TOR will run "trusted agents from any publisher," will "work with any trusted service provider," (the authors envisage this as a new service category) and it'll all be independently verified.

TOR source code will be published, Palladium will be regularly examined "by a credible security auditor" and anyone "can certify Palladium hardware or software, and we expect that many companies and organizations will offer this service."

Of course, right now these are only words, the terms and conditions for publication, verification and auditing haven't been revealed, and Microsoft has a long and inglorious record in Untrustworthy Industry Leadership to overcome before we entirely buy the Trustworthy Computing pitch. However, as far as it goes, this little lot sounds plausible. If it were any other company, you might even be inclined to take it at face value. Keep talking, people, and prove you mean it. ®

* We have, bizarrely, found an entirely unconnected Palladium white paper on an entirely different Palladium from Templar Corporation. You're probably not interested (we're not), but it's here.

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