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Apple patents DRM for electricity

According to New Scientist, Apple’s patented a DRM system that would prevent you from charging your device with anything except a licensed charger. The charger would be locked to your device. Yes, that’d keep a thief from charging your stolen laptop, but it would also keep you from plugging your gasping laptop into a friend’s power supply, and would give Apple yet more control over the aftermarket for its products. Because if there’s one thing users are demanding, it’s that Apple have yet more control over its products. (See Dan Lockton’s post. Thanks to Hanan for the link.) [Tags: ]

3 Responses to “Apple patents DRM for electricity”

  1. It’s a clever, non-obvious idea – a good thing to patent. Done well, adding a charging device would be like adding a bluetooth headset. It’s also interesting in that it would be pretty hard to hack (i.e. a lot more people know how to attack software DRM than modulate electrical waveforms coming from DC power outputs.

    That doesn’t mean Apple would be stupid enough to use it in a manner that would devalue the iPod.

  2. It’s not that I’m a Martha Stewart fan, but I did see a clip a while ago where she was in the audience of an electronics trade show (I forget exactly what it was).

    Anyway, she pulls about a dozen battery chargers out of her purse and asks, “Why do I have to have all of these”?

    I thought it was very effective and right on target.

    I’ve also heard that the unspoken answer is because selling you a battery charger is where companies make most of their profit.

  3. The patent and how it’s actually applied in a product can be fairly different.

    For a given device to respect the lock to one charger could easily be a setting that the user is in full control of, and can turn on or off as they like. Apple does this now by letting you pair your Macbook with a specific remote, thus avoiding the confusion of your computer responding to someone else’s remote. The system comes un-paired, and can be paired and un-paired at will.

    I hope that’s the direction that Apple would take on this. I often grab a friend’s power cord to charge my machine, and would definitely not want to see some kind of software or firmware bug prevent me from charging the tool that helps me run my life.


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