Developer preview models of Apple's forthcoming Intel-powered computer contain a security chip that has come under fire for its ability to compromise the privacy of users.
Apple recently started shipping Developer Transition Kits that help developers test and prepare software for the switch to the Intel-powered computers next year. The kit contains a version of OS X for Intel, and a Mac computer featuring an Intel processor, claim some developers.
The computer features a security chip called the Trusted Platform Module (TPM), an open industry standard governed by the not-for-profit Trusted Computing Group which develops security standards.
The chip's inclusion with the Apple hardware does not come as a complete surprise. It has been previously suggested that Apple could use the TPM to prevent computer users installing the OS X operating system on a non-Mac computer.
Each TPM chip contains an encrypted serial number that allows the operating system to verify whether it is running on Apple hardware.
Hackers could in theory forge the serial number, according to Reynolds, fooling the software into believing that it is running on Mac hardware even when it is not.
The security chips are currently included with some PCs for the enterprise market from IBM/Lenovo and HP. They use the TPM to security store passwords or encrypt data.
The upcoming Windows Vista relies on the TPM for a technology dubbed Secure Startup, which blocks access to the computer if the content of the hard drive is compromised.
This prevents a laptop thief from swapping out the hard drive, or booting the system from a floppy disk to circumvent security features.
Reynolds suggested that in the future software developers could use the chip as an anti-piracy device. The vendor would link the TPM identification number to the software registration key.
However, the TPM has also gained notoriety because it is seen as a way to invade user privacy. The identifying number built into the chip could be used to limit the fair use of digital media by enforcing digital rights management technologies, or to track users online.
But Reynolds insisted that the fear of such scenarios is overstated, and that privacy-infringing schemes are uncovered sooner or later at great expense to the computer maker.
"There are things that manufacturers could do with the TPM that are very much against the interests of the user. But, in practice, manufacturers have found that it is best not to do that," he said.
Apple declined to comment.
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