iPod shuffle has ‘authentication chip’ on headphone interface because Apple cares about customers

“Even as it attacks DRM on music, Apple is continuing to add more DRM to its own hardware… The latest example is the new iPod shuffle. According to the careful reviewers at iLounge, third-party headphone makers will have to use yet-another Apple ‘authentication chip’ if they want to interoperate with the new Shuffle,” Fred von Lohmann writes for The Electronic Freedom Foundation.

“Why have so many of the reviews of iPods failed to notice the proliferation of these Apple ‘authentication chips?’ If it were Microsoft demanding that computer peripherals all include Microsoft ‘authentication chips’ in order to work with Windows… I’d think reviewers would be screaming about it,” von Lohmann writes.

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Newsflash for Knee-jerkers: That big, bad “authentication chip” (forgive us as we drop the demonizing “DRM” usage) is there so that Apple can make sure that “Made for iPod” accessories from third-parties actually work for the end user. Yes, folks, “Made for iPod” means that an electronic accessory has been designed specifically to connect to iPod and has been certified by the developer to meet Apple performance standards.

As the headphones are asked to do more (i.e. control the unit), they certainly need to be carefully certified in order to make sure that they provide satisfaction to the customer. Microsoft, on the other hand, quite obviously doesn’t care if third-party items work for their customers or not. The “Made for iPod” program has benefitted the iPod platform and third-party iPod product developers immensely.

“Accessory makers that have been briefed about Apple’s plan say it will help more than hurt… Made for iPod is essentially a way to make sure all electronics accessories work properly with the iPod… Most accessory makers say the [small] royalty is well worth it, given the millions Apple pours into hawking the iPod. ‘There’s nothing in this that threatens our business model,'” says Brian Van Harlingen, a senior technology manager at consumer-electronics outfit Belkin, one of the largest iPod accessory makers,” Peter Burrows reported for BusinessWeek (Jan. 27, 2005).

Oh, by the way, here’s what iLounge’s “careful reviewer,” Jeremy Horwitz, wrote about Apple’s “Made for iPod” program on January 30, 2005, nine days after it was unveiled: “Though iLounge is an independent resource of iPod information not affiliated with Apple Computer, we editorially support the Made for iPod program to the extent that it provides a guarantee of safety and proper testing of electronic iPod accessories for consumers, and will advise our readers of the Made for iPod status of new iPod accessories we review.”

[UPDATE: March 16, 2009, 6:16pm EDT: It’s all bullshit. There is no “DRM” on the chip, Apple has confirmed. So much for “careful reviewers.” More info here: Apple: There is no authentication or DRM in iPod shuffle headphone interface

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