Towards a better dongle

by Giles Turnbull

Apple is a very image-conscious company. It controls the output of information better than any other in its sector, indeed better than almost any other company of any kind. There are lots of secrets within Apple, and mostly they are kept pretty well.

All of which makes it interesting when the senior management allow the tiniest snippet of information to come out.

In this week's "Meet the press" event in Paris, Steve Jobs and Phil Schiller talked about a range of subjects. I suspect they had a list of points they wanted to make, whether or not they were asked the right questions by the assembled journalists.

One comment by Steve Jobs caught my attention more than the others.

Jobs promised new technology on Intel Macs that will prevent the installation of OS X on non-Apple hardware. He's very confident about this. Jobs wanted to remind us of this summer's widespread reports of OS X installations on x86 machines, because he's sure he has an answer to prevent that happening on a massive scale once the switch has begun.

Consider: because Apple is so secretive, it never tells us about new technologies in advance. Everything gets unveiled for the first time when Steve is on stage - that "Oh, one more thing" moment that gets the Mac conference goers so excited. But here's Steve, in front of a bunch of journalists, telling us about something before it's even available. This is unusual for him. That's why I think it's something he's got a lot of confidence in.

Now we can spend hours discussing precisely what sort of piracy-protection Apple might want to employ (and the folks at Slashdot have been doing exactly that), but my favorite summing-up of the whole thing comes from a Metafilter thread from February this year, in which poster kindall said:

Apple copy-protects their operating system with a hardware dongle. This dongle is called a Macintosh.

Wise words. And yet ... even hardware dongles have been cracked and sidestepped in the past. Precisely what Steve Jobs has placed his confidence in will be something for us to ponder and discuss interminably between now and next June, when the first Mactel machines are (still) on schedule to be unveiled.

I bought a "Copy Controlled" audio CD the other day, but it ripped fine on my Mac


2005-09-21 17:11:54
3GHz PowerMacs
Steve has been known to say things that do not come to pass ...

Given Intel's push into DRM and multimedia, one can assume if that protection is solid at the CPU level, Mac OS X will be Apple hardware true.

2005-09-21 21:57:35
This dongle is called a Macintosh.
Heh. Glad you liked that. I can't really take credit for it, though -- I first heard it from my friend Warren Magnus.

Jobs was pretty much forced to pre-announce the Intel Mac if he wanted any third-party applications to be available for it by the time it was ready to ship. The PowerPC and Mac OS X transitions were also announced well in advance -- so, for that matter, was Copland, though it never happened. Had to be.

There are a lot of risks to the Intel transition. I think one of the greatest risks is that Microsoft will create a version of Virtual PC that runs Windows applications rootless at near-hardware speed, and stop producing Mac-specific versions of the Office applications. Once you're running Windows applications on your Mac, the Mac then needs to be a better Windows than Windows -- or else, why not just run Windows on the machine? There's opportunity here too, if Apple can indeed make the Mac a better environment for running Windows applications than Windows itself, but I think that'll be tough. Apple no longer has the UI lead it once had.

2005-09-22 06:42:03
emagic dongle
When Apple acquired emagic they not only got great music software but also a dongle technology that has been effective in stopping crackers. Maybe that goes onboard?
2005-09-22 07:47:36
Windows. Dual boot?
"Microsoft will create a version of Virtual PC that runs Windows applications rootless at near-hardware speed, and stop producing Mac-specific versions of the Office"

This would be unfortunate, however there is too much software that isn't being ported and Mac that would run Windows more or less natively would be handy. I gather that people expect the Mactels to be able to boot into Windows, but what about running both Windows and Mac OS at the same time--Virtual PC, but faster?

2005-09-22 10:55:55
emagic dongle
I don't know about that. You can find bit-torrented copies of Logic Pro 7.1 with accompanying cracks. To the best of my knowledge, any software with a dongle has been cracked within weeks of the release of the dongle.
2005-09-23 17:38:10
Windows. Dual boot?
I doubt that MS will kill Mac-specfic versions of Office.

I suspect instead that MS will produce VPC for those things that need it, but that the MBU will continue to create and update office. The margins on it are very high, and it is one of the better mac os citizens these days.

Don't get me wrong - I am no microsoft fan, but they do deserve credit for things they do right, and office for mac is just that - done right, if what you need is stability, and compatibility with Office on the PC. Many of my clients do, so it is good for them that it exists, and MS knows it.

Access, on the other hand, is not on the platform, and is not likely to arrive there save running under Windows.