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Apple's DisplayPort Includes Digital Copy Protection

TMO Reports - Apple's DisplayPort Includes Digital Copy Protection

by , 1:25 PM EST, November 18th, 2008

Apple's new MacBooks and MacBook Pros, which use the new Mini DisplayPort connector and protocol, appear to include an industry standard digital copy protection system, HDCP, according to ars technica on Monday.

The High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) technology has been in use with high-definition TV systems for over a year now. It's included in every modern HDTV that uses the HDMI connector as well as source devices, like Blu-ray players and advanced Audio/Video receivers with HDMI. It establishes a secure, encrypted connection between the source and the HDTV to prevent the theft of HD digital content.

It appears that Apple is now including that protocol on its new MacBooks that include the Mini DisplayPort connector. That will prevent protected, DRM'd content in iTunes from playing on a non-HDCP compliant device. In the case of ars technica, a Mini DisplayPort to VGA connector was used to connect to a Sanyo projector -- which wasn't HDCP compliant because VGA connectors cannot support that protocol.

However, if the MacBook had been connected with, say, a Mini DisplayPort to HDMI converter box and connected to any modern HDTV with HDMI, then it likely would have worked.

For more than a year, observers wondered when Apple would start to ship computers and displays with HDMI. However, there are several problems with the technology. It's currently limited to 1920 x 1080, and it can't drive Apple's 30-inch Cinema Display which has a resolution of 2560x 1600. In addition, DisplayPort, which is an open standard, is royalty free, while HDMI is not.

Apple's Decision

There has been some discussion in the HDTV industry about moving to DisplayPort because the connector for HDMI is not a physically robust design and can easily come loose. However, some others feel that HDMI will be around in the HDTV industry for a long time. In light of this, Apple had a decision to make.

Apple probably chose DisplayPort because it is more advanced technically than HDMI, the electrical protocol itself is an open standard, it's royalty free, and it can nevertheless support HDCP to protect iTunes content. However, for space reasons on the MacBooks, Apple chose what appears to be a proprietary design, the Mini DisplayPort plug.


Atlona in San Jose is currently working to manufacture Mini DisplayPort to standard DisplayPort connectors, a USB + audio to HDMI converter box, and a DisplayPort + audio to HDMI converter box. They are not inexpensive.

The bottom line is that MacBook users and users of future Macs with this DisplayPort technology can expect to connect their Macs to HDCP compliant HDTVs, but it'll require some connectors, a converter box, and extra cost.

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