TCPA stands for the
Trusted Computing Platform Alliance, an initiative led by Intel. Their stated
goal is `a new computing platform for the next century that will provide for improved
trust in the PC platform.' Palladium is software that Microsoft says it plans
to incorporate in future versions of Windows; it will build on the TCPA hardware,
and will add some extra features.
does TCPA / Palladium do?
It provides a computing platform on which you can't
tamper with the applications, and where these applications can communicate securely
with the vendor. The obvious application is digital rights management (DRM): Disney
will be able to sell you DVDs that will decrypt and run on a Palladium platform,
but which you won't be able to copy. The music industry will be able to sell you
music downloads that you won't be able to swap. They will be able to sell you
CDs that you'll only be able to play three times, or only on your birthday. All
sorts of new marketing possibilities will open up. TCPA
/ Palladium will also make it much harder for you to run unlicensed software.
Pirate software can be detected and deleted remotely. It will also make it easier
for people to rent software rather than buying it; and if you stop paying the
rent, then not only does the software stop working but so may the files it created.
For years, Bill Gates has dreamed of finding a way to make the Chinese pay for
software: Palladium could be the answer to his prayer.
There are many other
possibilities. Governments will be able to arrange
things so that all Word documents created on civil servants' PCs are `born classified'
and can't be leaked electronically to journalists. Auction sites might insist
that you use trusted proxy software for bidding, so that you can't bid tactically
at the auction. Cheating at computer games could be made more difficult. There
is a downside too.