ATI and Crippleware

by on June 5, 2007 · 0 comments

Danny O’Brien points out that ATI is releasing software “upgrades” that reduce the functionality of its hardware:

The latest update to ATI’s Catalyst drivers now offers”improved TV quality and Broadcast Flag support which enables full US terrestrial DTV support”.

It’s a little unclear from that README whether the new support is for a new, hardware revision of ATI’s Theater 650 digital TV tuner, or simply a new software implementation of the digital TV copy control for current owners of the Theater 650. However you look at it, though, “broadcast flag support” is hardly an upgrade.

Prior to such support, you could be confident that you could use these cards for their given purpose: to record whatever you want off the air, whenever you want, in whatever format you want. Now, ATI, recently purchased by AMD, is announcing support for equipment’s right to take that power away from you, and substitute a crippled subset of their tuner’s capabilities whenever a broadcaster commands it.

But this isn’t just an unfeature: it’s an unnecessary unfeature. You can have full terrestial HD support without the Broadcast Flag – mainly because thousands of concerned citizens fought hard for that right. AMD must surely have noticed that the Broadcast Flag proposal has been dead for over two years, ever since the courts threw it out as FCC overreach. Thanks in part to your letters and calls, no politician has managed to sneak it into law since.

It doesn’t seem like reducing the functionality of your products is a very good business strategy.

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