Microsoft is to introduce hardware-linked security technology with Windows XP Service Pack 2, and beyond that will make "additions to Windows" supporting the technology, execution protection (NX). The feature is already supported by shipping AMD K8 and Intel Itanium processor families, and according to Microsoft: "It is expected that future 32 and 64-bit processors will provide execution protection. "Microsoft is preparing for and encouraging this trend by supporting execution protection in its Windows operating systems." So is it DRM?
Not exactly, not yet, but it's another example of the closer linking of hardware and software that will result in the processors with NGSCB built-in that Bill Gates promised at the recent Professional Developers Conference, and a reread of his keynote after hearing about NX does tend to suggest that Bill might not see any clearly defined line between the two, and between hardware security and hardware ID. And linkage is helpful from the point of view of selling DRM to users; clearly, you can't pitch hardware protection that screws up your ability to listen to music as you wish as an unalloyed benefit for the general public, but you can sell them it on the basis it stops Bad Things coming at them from The Net.
Microsoft can also use compliance with this and future hardware features as the 'entry ticket' for hardware manufacturers wanting Windows development relationships and support. One might speculate that Windows XP support for AMD64 might not be entirely unconnected with NX support. As Microsoft says: "The 32-bit version of Windows currently leverages the NX processor feature, as defined by the AMD64 Architecture Programmer's Manual." So actually, it's not being introduced to the mass market with SP2 - it's here already for AMD64 platforms.
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News source: The Reg