Intel introduced its latest second generation Core processors codenamed Sandy Bridge in January this year. Sandy Bridge is, by far, the most refined processor ever released by Intel, reaching a new level of power efficiency with high performance and also integrating the graphics all on a single silicon die. Just when we thought we knew all about Sandy Bridge, Intel has announced the launch of Intel Insider. We are going to demystify Intel Insider for you today and we promise we will leave no stone unturned.
What is Intel Insider?
Contrary to several news reports stating it to be a new processor released by Intel, Intel Insider is a feature already present in the Sandy Bridge processor, which will now be put in use by Intel. Intel Insider is a technology allowing you to download and view protected video content on a PC equipped with a Sandy Bridge processor.
This technology also offers something that has never been offered before; it allows you to download a movie even before its date of release and securely purchase it even offline so that you can watch it as soon as it is released in theatres without having to wait to download it on that date. This is known as 'proactive queue'.
How does Intel Insider work?
When you connect to a video service supporting Intel Insider technology, it first detects whether you have a Sandy Bridge processor inside your computer. Once detected, it sends across the stream of HD video in all its purity to your computer in the encrypted form. As you may know, Sandy Bridge processers include AES-NI technology to encrypt as well as decrypt data. This technology is used to decrypt the encrypted HD video stream sent to you so that you can view it on your display securely. With the upcoming Intel Wireless Display technology, which is yet another untapped technology present in Sandy Bridge processors, you can beam these contents wirelessly to your big screen HDTV.
As you may already be aware, another kind of technology for the same purpose already exists in most computers today supported by Intel, Nvidia and AMD, known as HDCP or High Definition Content Protection. This technology provides protection to secure audio-video content against theft and piracy. The difference between Intel Insider and HDCP is that Intel Insider protects the content as long as it is inside the PC, but once it is sent to a display device to be viewed, it is not protected by Intel Insider, but rather by HDCP, which is listed as a requirement for downloading and viewing Intel Insider enabled content.
Is Intel Insider the same as DRM?
Technically speaking, Intel Insider is similar to DRM or Digital Rights Management technology. Just like DRM, Intel Insider allows you to view your purchased video content on your computer, but you cannot copy it or view it on any other computer. When you purchase or rent and download a movie using Intel Insider, the service provider from whom you downloaded it decides when you can watch it and for how long.
Intel Insider lets you purchase or rent and download or stream high quality 1080p movies from Intel Insider enabled stores. Thus, Intel Insider is essentially an extra layer of content protection in the hardware of the new Intel processors to help prevent piracy of premium paid content.
You can consider it this way. The movie industry has been using optical media and drives to copy protect their contents and prevent piracy. For that, the user is required to own or purchase an optical drive, which can be basically from any brand. But in the case of Intel Insider, the user has no such choice with processors and will have to invest in a Sandy Bridge processor in order to access Intel Insider protected content or remain deprived of the content. This has been a cause of outcry amongst reviewers and media all over the world.
Intel prefers to differ about this and restates that Intel Insider is not DRM, which limits the availability of content to users. According to Intel's Graphics Marketing Director, Josh Newman, studios want to protect their premium content and view the PC as an insecure device from which their content can be violated. Thus, they avoid streaming high quality protected content to PCs. Intel Insider seeks to do away with this worry of the studios by providing a hardware security layer to protect their content, thus making the PC a trusted platform for distributing such content. Indeed, Intel may have a point there because we still don't have legal online services such as iTunes and Amazon Video on Demand willing to provide Full HD 1080p premium protected content by means of streaming or download. This stand of Intel is reinforced by the fact that several international studios are now willing to use Intel Insider to distribute their premium content to PC owners. WBshop.com and BEST BUY WB CinemaNow are some of the first services to already start providing high quality video content in this way and the quality of movies is supposed to be superior to what had been available for download before, the same as the quality of Blu-ray movies.
Intel states that the only people that will be negatively affected by Intel Insider are people who wish to pirate content from services supported by Intel Insider. The rest of computer users will not be negatively affected in any way because none of the content on their PCs will ever be touched by Intel Insider and they have a choice to decide whether or not to use Intel Insider service. And yes, you can still continue to use P2P or Bit-torrent services unhindered or are free to rip optical media such as a DVD or Blu-ray.
In India, Intel has tied up with Hungama.com, which will serve as a platform for download and streaming of Bollywood and international movies. These will include blockbusters from Yash Raj Films, Paramount Pictures, T-Series and Reliance Home Video.
All being said and done, it is still equally true that it is still a monopolistic approach for Intel as long as this technology is not made a standard copy protection technology and made available on processors manufactured by other companies.