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Re: Apple planning to use Clipper chip?

Scott Collins has commented at length on my first post on this, which
is good. Let me note again that I was communicating pretty much
exactly what I heard, and labelled my own speculations as just that.
In particular, I was not claiming the decision has been made, or that
it could reasonably be implemented.

Anyway, some comments on Scott's points:

> Based on long experience with Macs and Mac software (system and otherwise),
> I think this is highly unlikely.
> 1. Apple has a history of following the 'software only' approach in general.
> 2. Apple loudly and often touts compatability across its entire line.

The new "audio-visual" Macs (660av and 840av) have DSP hardware inside
and software for speech recognition (part of PlainTalk, I understand)
which is specific to these machines. The speech synthesis software
will run on all (or most?) machines, as the DSP is not used, but the
speech recognition only runs on the av machines (or properly
DSP-equipped machines, presumably).

This suggests the "software only" and "compatibility across its entire
line" are things of the past. (BTW, as we Mac users all know, minor
incompatibilities have often existed, as with virtual memory not
running on all platforms--how could it have?--and the differences in
FPUs, screens, etc.)

> 3. 3rd party Mac developers have little incentive to write software with mass
>    appeal (e.g., communications software) but limited applicability (because of
>    hardware requirements).

My speculation would be that the Clipper/Skipjack/Capstone deal, if it
is happening at all, is some time off. Perhaps for a phone version of
the av Macs (there had been speculation that Apple was planning to use
the on-board DSP hardware for a modem tool, similar to what NeXT has
done with its hardware).

> 5. Therefore, for a standard to emerge on the Mac... 1) Apple would have to
>    begin producing machines that contained this chip; 2) Apple would have to
>    produce special system software, explicitly for this class of machines,
>    that used this chip; 3) Apple would have to produce compelling end-user
>    communications software that used clipper services on this class of machines
>    and either didn't run at all on earlier hardware, or didn't use clipper
>    technology.

#1 and #2 are already satisfied with the new generation of av Macs, as
noted above. #3 may or may not occur. My speculation is that Apple
will not go it alone, but may be in the early negotiation phases of
such a deal (perhaps an encrypted phone conferencing system, or other
phone use of the av Macs, which the Feds would have some interest in,
a la the whole Clipper thing).

I would never urge anyone to boycott Apple products on such a flimsy
basis as this story I heard from an Apple guy. I just wanted to let
the Cypherpunks know what I heard; it might make later developments
more understandable.

Anyone who wants a Mac but instead buys Windows because of this rumor
deserves what he gets.


Timothy C. May         | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money,  
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