A deal with BIOS maker Phoenix Technologies would allow the operating system to directly control hardware. It also raises concerns over who controls the software in PCs
Microsoft has expanded its relationship with BIOS maker Phoenix Technologies in a deal designed to more closely integrate the basic building blocks of the PC with the Windows operating system.
The relationship, announced this week, is designed to make PCs simpler and more reliable, the companies said. The move is likely to put consumer rights advocates on their guard, however, since both Microsoft and Phoenix are involved in plans to integrate digital rights management (DRM) technology at the operating system and hardware level. DRM is designed to give copyright owners more control over how users make use of software and content, but has been criticised as eroding consumer rights.
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Phoenix is one of the biggest BIOS providers, its customers including four of the top five PC manufacturers. Its products are also used by consumer electronics makers such as Pioneer, Matsushita, Sony and Toshiba.
Both Microsoft and Phoenix are currently arguing for closer integration of Windows with PC hardware, and DRM integrated throughout. Microsoft is planning to tie Windows DRM features to the hardware platform via its controversial Next Generation Secure Computing Base (NGSCB) project, formerly known as Palladium. NGSCB is associated with the next version of Windows, code-named Longhorn, which is due in about two years' time.
Phoenix recently said it is touting round a BIOS with built-in DRM technology to major PC manufacturers. In September the company said it had developed a prototype of its Core Management Engine (CME) including DRM from Orbid. The DRM technology would allow content providers to identify which PCs and devices were authorised to play particular files, more effectively controlling content distribution, file-trading and moving software from one machine to another, according to Phoenix. [Privacy Digest]