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Can the Kindle Fire carry TV


Published: 30 September, 2011


One of the most amazing things that the iPad has brought is a focal point to introducing portable devices for pay TV operators - something else to watch the TV on in the home, and potentially outside it. Now as Amazon joins the fray for a generalized tablet, albeit a very different style of device from Apple, it has to be hyper aware that it needs to entice the pay TV operators, with their 690 million global homes customer base, to engage with the new Kindle Fire.

And it already has a head start. While pay TV operators around the world have been stymied in trying to come up with a genuinely secure architecture for putting HD commercial content on the iPad, in selecting the Texas Instrument OMPA4 architecture for its processor, Amazon has bought into one of the most secure hardware environments for portable devices.

Apple has security built into its A4 and A5 processors, but that security has not been opened to the commercial pay TV operator, it's to protect Apple and the device, and iPad Apps are a potential piracy hole for them, and in each case Pay TV operators have resorted to generic DRMs like OMA or PlayReady, but rested them on "trendy" new software only fortifications, which cannot withstand a full frontal attack from organized pirates. Software protection can keep the casual pirate at bay, but not organized crime.

The OMAP architecture is perhaps the only ARM chip we know of that has the type of hardware security that software DRMs need to hang their hat on, in order to achieve the kind of protection which commercial content has enjoyed from conditional access these past 20 years or so.

Texas designed something called M-Shield which is a highly robust security system with on-chip cryptographic keys, a fully protected secure execution environment not just encryption accelerators, secure storage and secure chip-interconnects.

Amazon has to be more pragmatic than Apple has been so far and must expose these security tools to its developers, and then it can win the security war. Long after Apple is denounced as a not so secure, but vital, element of pay TV's tablet strategy, Amazon could be getting preferential treatment, seen as a safe pair of hands.

In the long run the industry needs a trusted third party to provide the same security hardware on every ARM chip, something like the Cryptographic Research Crypto-Firewall which has must found its way onto the major set top chips - but we are probably a few year away from that and until then security is going to become as important a differentiator in tablet architectures as processing power.

The best way we could sum up the new Amazon Kindle Fire for ourselves, is to say that it's like the iPad, but for grown-ups. Grown-ups that read - a lot, grown-ups who don't pretend they can do everything on a tablet, but have it as well as a laptop. Grown-ups, who just like their children, need to watch videos, buy applications and even play the odd game or two. Grown-ups who don't want to carry something around which is iPad shaped and iPad weight, but something smaller, lighter and more convenient.

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