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HP to Blu-ray: Take us seriously, or we'll join HD DVD

HP's reality check on mandatory managed copy

HP's perspective change began when the online publication eHomeUpgrade cited an extensive excerpt from our story, gathering commentary from other sources. In his personal blog, Chris Lanier, a Microsoft MVP (a professional developer who works with, though not for, Microsoft), responded by saying Peterson got his facts wrong about Advanced Access Content System (AACS), the principal Internet-oriented copy protection system which both Blu-ray and HD DVD claim to support. "AACS is what gives both formats the ability to offer 'Managed Copies,'" states Lanier's blog comment, "but if the BDA doesn't make it a mandatory feature for all Blu-ray Discs, it's pointless! It means that I could purchase a BD that was put out by Fox, and not get the ability to have a Managed Copy."

AACS is being developed by a separate consortium of manufacturers, which includes Microsoft, Intel, Toshiba, and Sony, but not HP. Peterson told us, when HP read the blog comments alleging HP was mistaken about AACS - particularly Peterson's September comment that AACS gives studios the tools to determine which discs can be copied, and by whom - they began investigating their facts, and were surprised by the results. HP's stand on AACS up until September, Peterson now acknowledges, was "based on our interpretation of what we'd been hearing from some of the studios within the BDA.

"After we exchanged jabs in the press, if you will, with your article and some of the blog responses," Peterson continued yesterday, "we decided that we really needed to sit down and get on the same page here, or at least have a better understanding of where the miscommunication is. So a group of us went up to visit with Microsoft, to have a heart-to-heart, open-minded dialog, to explain each other's perspectives, and try to get a real understanding of where the disconnect was, because we each had different interpretations of where the content protection was with respect to managed copy."

As a founding member of the AACS group, Microsoft would have an intimate understanding of the technology involved, HP concluded. "They're going to understand much more, and obviously have a great deal of concern about the PC implications of the content protection system," said Peterson, "while HP and the Blu-ray Disc Association was getting information, but not necessarily from a PC perspective."

"Our understanding of fact, unfortunately, was somewhat filtered," Peterson admitted. "So when I was explaining to you about how the content protection works, and how the studios are going to have the choice, that was my legitimate understanding of how AACS was going to be implemented on both formats. Unfortunately, my understanding, it turns out, probably wasn't correct. It's not up to the studios. The licensing terms for AACS are going to require mandatory managed copy, and the studios will be able to charge what they want for the copy, if you will, but the managed copy will be mandatory under AACS.

"This was a big 'Ah, ha!' for us," he confessed. "Obviously, HP as a PC company is all for the concept of managed copy, because we want to enable consumers to make legitimate copies of the content." Legitimate copies would enable purchased movies to be played back throughout the home, on "smart" digital TVs, through home network streaming to remote devices, or to backup media which could be played in the minivan. "We are staunch supporters of managed copy," continued Peterson. "We always have been. Our understanding of AACS, however, was somewhat skewed from reality."

We re-examined the version 0.9 specifications for AACS, and found no mention of any kind of guarantees of managed copy capability. The reason for that lack of mention, however, may be due to the "0" part in the specification number: The AACS specs aren't complete, Peterson reminded us. "The robustness and compliance rules for AACS have not been published," he said. "So when there's a lack of information, opinions turn into information."

Microsoft is a key engineer of the rules for AACS, said Peterson, including the unwritten ones. "Microsoft [is] actually more familiar with the terms and the licensing and the rules around AACS, because again, the rules haven't been published."

HP's other point of contention with the BDA concerns the so-called interactive layer - the part which contains the programs that offer functionality and services to the viewer. Peterson told us the BDA's stand on iHD may be more important to HP than its stand on mandatory managed copy. We'll look into HP's revelations on iHD, and how Microsoft's licensing arrangements for Windows Vista changed HP's whole perspective, in part 2 of our story. Stay in touch with TG Daily for further developments.