Wed, Jul 25th 2007 8:18am
Apple has applied for a patent on what's basically DRM for gadget chargers, detailing a system that would ensure gadgets can only be charged by certain approved chargers. The idea is that it would be a theft deterrent, since mobile phones, MP3 players and other devices couldn't be recharged after they're stolen. While it's just a patent application and doesn't mean it will make its way to market anytime soon, the thinking is similar to that which spawned DRM for digital content. Though it's a different application, the holes in the logic here illustrate quite nicely how DRM and copy protection for don't stop theft and just get in the way of legitimate consumers. First, the idea that this DRM for chargers would serve as a deterrent to theft is predicated on the idea that the technology won't be cracked -- which is overly optimistic. The technology will be cracked and rendered useless for anti-theft purposes, meaning all it will do then -- like every other DRM -- is annoy legitimate customers. What happens if you get to work and your MP3 player's dead? Hopefully you've got a pre-approved spare charger there, because you won't be able to use a colleague's without any hassle. If you lose your phone charger, you'll have to jump through some sort of hoops to get going with a new one. And just like DRM restricts consumers' choice of playback devices, this technology could restrict consumers' ability to use chargers of their choosing, since chargers that don't feature it wouldn't work with devices that do. Given Apple's desire to control and profit from the third-party accessory market for iPods and the like, it seems unlikely that they'd see that as a bad thing.
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