Manufacturer confirms chip: iPod headphones now have the Apple Tax; Update: Apple confirms no DRM, authentication, just licensing

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Sources at a headphone manufacturer confirmed today to BBG that new iPod headphones do use a proprietary chip available exclusively through Apple.

However, it’s described as a “transmission” chip, suggesting that its role is not authentication or digital rights management, even if the result is to encourage manufacturers to pay an “Apple Tax” to license technology that allows their products to be used with iPod equipment.

This partially corroborates iLounge‘s original report. iLounge noted that the new included headphones with in-line controls use an “authorization chip” to communicate with the iPod, a part available only from Apple. (Apple uses a similar chip inside the latest iPods to prevent video output from working with unlicensed iPod docks and other accessories.)

We took off the covering from our iPod Shuffle remote and discovered a chip labelled “8A83E3″ soldered to the back of the remote, connecting a third wire to the second ring on the minijack plug, the same wire the iPhone headphone remote uses to send an simple electrical on/off signal to the iPhone.

When reblogging iLounge‘s review, both the EFF and Boing Boing used the term “DRM” to describe the “auth” chip. BBG used the same term when questioning the function of the chip, which became understandably confusing for some, as an authentication chip, while perhaps using signaling that could not be legally reverse-engineered due to the restrictions in place from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, does not affect the ability to listen to audio through generic, unlicensed headphones. (Except, of course, in the new Shuffle, which uses only in-line controls.)

For the record, we do not believe that the new iPod headphones with in-line remote use DRM that affects audio playback in any way.

That said, a three-button in-line remote could have been easily implemented by Apple without a microcontroller. While the in-line remote is simply an added convenience in most iPods, the iPod Shuffle has no controls on the device itself. To control the latest iPod, customers have no other choice but to use headphones made by manufacturers who have purchased a licensed authorization chip from Apple.

Since the new controls also work on the latest iPods and MacBooks, we can now presume that all future headphones released with the iPod controls will include the added cost of the licensed authentication chip from Apple.

Update: Macworld.com also confirms it with additional sources.

The next step? Someone with diagnostic ability should try to replicate the function of the iPod remote to determine whether or not it is encrypted. If it is not, it should be possible for unlicensed clones to be made without fear of legal repercussion. Our sources could not confirm any encryption of the signal, but bear in mind that they only solder in the chips that Apple give them. That said, they did confirm that the new headphones still operate the middle button with the same drop in resistance as the old iPhone headphones, so I suspect any special signaling to control the volume is not encrypted.

Update 2: Just spoke with Apple. There is no encryption or authentication on the chip, so clones could conceivably be made, just not with “Made for iPod” official certification. And now we know!

Update 3: iLounge explains the business behind Apple’s licensing schemes:

From what we were told, Apple offered to sell developers the chip for $1 in a bundle with a $2 microphone, costs which are then multiplied and passed on to consumers. The component costs are now apparently lower. There are also authentication chips inside the new Apple Earphones with Remote and Mic, and the In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic–the ones that you may recall were delayed last year for mysterious reasons.

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73 Responses to Manufacturer confirms chip: iPod headphones now have the Apple Tax; Update: Apple confirms no DRM, authentication, just licensing

  1. Anonymous says:

    It’s not an authentication chip. It looks like it just sends ultrasonic control signals down the wire to the iPod.

    The *real* authentication chip is in iPod Dock products, not headphones. That’s the part that cripples video out, etc.

    It’s not much different, though. It’s still a proprietary chip that manufacturers have to pay Apple for in order to be compatible, and although the chip itself might be cheap, it can only be purchased after entering the Made for iPod program and paying the Apple Tax of several dollars per unit.

    The only difference between the chips is that it’s legal for manufacturers to reverse engineer this one (but with way “intellectual property rights” are bought and sold these days, that might not be true forever.)

    The real question is why do people keep buying Apple’s crap?

  2. dculberson says:

    Batu, I guess BB Gadgets just presumes reading comprehension and critical thought from their audience.

  3. webmonkees says:

    For a site that features so many mods of gadgets, definite signs of lackus innovatus:

    Open up the controller*
    (I guess it will re-assemble)

    Desolder the offending buds.

    Get a headphone extension cord and snip and strip.
    Solder this to the audio outputs
    (if you don’t know what to hook up, what are you doing with a soldering iron?)

    Re-assemble. Tape the casing together if need be.

    Now you are free to use any audio device, including those 70′s headphones you used to listen to LPs with.

    *warranty voider

  4. Rob Beschizza says:

    OBAMA OUTRAGED BY PROPRIETARY IPOD HEADPHONES

  5. GadgetGav says:

    Is this where I say “I told you so”..?
    From your first story comments:
    “Even if this chip is some kind of encryption, and not just debouce which seems much more likely, it’s not even new.
    Heck, for the longest time you couldn’t even source the 30-pin dock connector without signing a distributor agreement with Apple and you couldn’t sign that unless you were an established vendor. Apple has long had the ‘Made For iPod / iPhone’ licensing scheme. That includes access to the connector sources and pin outs and any authentication needed.”

    And what do you know. Today you do a little bit of digging and find out “hey, it’s part of the Made For iPod” licensing scheme. Bravo.

    Amazing how many page hits you must have gotten by publishing a non-story at the weekend so that Apple couldn’t have given you information even if you’d asked… Here’s a little experiment;

    BoingBoing Gadgets publishes shocking stories… Will they be proven false?
    Web sites get ad revenue for pages served… Does this lead to shock story publishing?

    See. It’s easy to come up with enticing headlines which can be totally deniable just by adding a question mark. I’m disappointed in BB / BBG over this. I know you don’t like the new Shuffle, but I thought this was better than some of the other tech sites, and actually had people who knew what they were talking (blogging) about and had some journalistic ideals. Now I see you’re just as scoop hungry and page-hit hungry as anyone else.

  6. Rob Beschizza says:

    Hell, you could just chop off Apple’s earbuds and splice on fancy ones.

  7. Anonymous says:

    while it isn’t DRM, isn’t it kinda PRM? As in Physical Rights Management? You have to buy this thing if you want to play at Apple’s game of being a licensed manufacturer and that means big money for all involved – the 3rd party folks get to be in the store and on the Apple pages, and Apple gets their tax from every chip sold.

    Since we’re talking about a piece of hardware that really should cost next to nothing, and that was once considered universal (I mean, really, headphones? Use whatever you like, we’ll make more) is this PRM any less relevant than DRM?

    Seems like everybody is saying, “oh, it’s not DRM, that’s ok then!” When I’m feeling like “So I *have* to buy genuine GM parts or my car falls apart?”

    Still doesn’t smell right.

  8. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    Within reason, yes you could substitute other earbuds, either by soldering them directly to the existing wires or by installing one or more inline sockets. The replacement uds should match the sensitivity and impedance of the originals within maybe 50% to work well. If the impedance is much lower the bass will be rolled off. If the impedance is much higher the volume might be too low. Also, is the controller chip is piggybacking control signals on the audio lines it’s remotely possible that changing the electrical characteristics of the earspeakers could interfere with that but I doubt it.

  9. Cheap car insurance says:

    The chips are produced in different countries. They are then shipped to further process: the assembly. I wonder how they can keep the quality well despite the multiple production processes and locations. Even in my firm that offers car insurance quotes it is not easy to manage people who work from different location and time set. They are really big companies!

  10. NtroP says:

    I was amazed right from the beginning at the (almost gleeful) condemnation of Apple over the “DRM” in the new iPod. The totally unwarranted assumption that Apple would do such a thing is beyond me. As is the many comments that “EVERYONE HATES THE CONTROLS ON THE HEADSET THING”. Well, *I* for one *like* having the controls on the headset. What I don’t like is to having to dig it out of my pocket or out from under my coat or wherever I clipped it to, to change a setting. If you don’t like that, DON”T BUY IT! Jebus people! If the product stinks so much go buy a Zen or a Zune FFS!

    As far as the whole “Made for iPod” licensing deal goes, first, Apple is in business to make money. Second, from an engineering standpoint it makes sense to ensure that third-party products that interface with the iPod meet certain specifications. This avoids many of the problems and confusion associated with products that, to the layman, look like they’d work just fine with the iPod. After all, the plug fits perfectly! Then they complain because “the battery doesn’t last as long as (cr)Apple says it should” or “why is this stoopid thing getting so hot?”, “Why does the bass sound so bad?”, “Why won’t the volume go any higher?”.

    I ran into such a situation with my iPhone. I wanted a dock with speakers on it so that I could listen to it without headphones on. I went to a local electronics store that had a large selection of docks with decent speakers. Several had pictures on the packaging showing iPod Touches. None of them said they were compatible with the iPhone. I went to a display unit and seated my iPhone in it. My iPhone warned me the dock wasn’t made for use with an iPhone…but it played just fine and sounded great! I thought to myself “stoopid (cr)Apple – they just want to charge more money for the same thing just to be labeled as “compatible with the iPhone”. I bought the dock and headed home.

    Well, I was an idiot and I’m someone who should actually have known better. I wasn’t 5 minutes into a sweet sonata when I heard the iPhone handshaking with the cell towers at full volume through the speakers. Gee, maybe that’s why it needs to be certified as officially working with the iPhone! Who’da thunk! I know no one else would have been tripped up by that but I wasn’t thinking…

    I don’t know how sensitive the Nano is to impedance differences or interference from static, or “chatter” on the switches. But I know that it would suck to suddenly have the volume change or have it skip to the next song because I pulled my polar fleece off.

    I’m sure Apple could give a crap if some cheap Chinese knock-off headphones show up online. Anyone who ditches Apple’s acceptable headphones for a 4.99 set from WalMart or eBay isn’t really in their sales demographic anyway. On the other hand, I’m sure someone who enjoys a quality, custom-fit headset won’t even notice the dollar or two licensing fee in the overall purchase price. Then again, would an audiophile really connect $600.00 Sennheisers to a Nano? Dunno. Haven’t heard the quality yet. But I’ll bet you one thing: Sennheiser won’t bat an eye at licensing the chip or the certification (if they come up with their own implementation).

    What this comes down to is that Apple-bashing is a national pastime online. Bloggers and commenters will become gleefully apoplectic over the slightest perceived deviation of Apple from their professed ideals. It’s de rigeur to predict the worst about every new Apple product. It never has enough features, power, freedom, whatever. There’s always a better product or a better way of doing it and anyone who would deign to actually purchase an Apple product are worthy of nothing but scorn.

    I’m sick of it. I use Apple’s products where they fit – I love my iPhone – it beats every other phone I’ve used for the things I’m looking for. I’ve got an old Mac tower that’s still chugging along next to my Linux boxes. I’ve got, and love, a Macbook Air. I’ve also got a Dell Mini running Ubuntu. I use what works and don’t seem to find the need to make inflammatory denigrations on other products that I have no intention of buying.

    No one seems to have a problem with 90% of the world rushing to Microsoft’s door and throwing their money down for their products, but, boy howdy, you’ve got to be a fool and a loser to swallow Apple’s DRM’d, over-priced, under-powered, proprietary piles of crap!

    I swear!

  11. Scary_UK says:

    I really don’t understand why they need ‘made for iPod’ authentification anyway… I’ve got all sorts of kit – mobile phones, mp3 players, TVs, computers, cable boxes… none of it requires that I plug in a certain make of device.

    What is so shoddy about Apple kit that means it can be broken by plugging in a pair of headphones?

  12. bardfinn says:

    Ross in Detroit:

    “remotely possible that changing the electrical characteristics of the earspeakers could interfere with that”

    I thought about that. Having twice the contact area for 1/8″ jack connectors (an adapter with a remote, as opposed to just earbuds with a remote, necessitates another female/male jack pair) would likely affect the DAC audio driver chip’s power consumption and might change the rf pickup characteristics of what are effectively two antennas sufficiently to make the audio quality suffer. They might be closing the audio output loop in order to more tightly integrate it to the onboard logic’s analog RF design considerations. There’s a lot more that can be done well and on a better power budget if you can yourself determine, reliably, the electrical characteristics of all of your circuitry instead of having to integrate the case of someone plugging massive powerhungry monitor headphones into your tiny little device and keep decent perfomance or have the consumer complain about bad audio performance. Maybe this lets them have actually decent bass response on the earbuds (I’m quietly giggling while writing this line).

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  14. OM says:

    …So, how soon do you think it will be before someone tries to release an inline adapter that will get scuttled because (cr)Apple refuses the license and then threatens to sue anyone else who tries to produce such an adapter?

    …Then again, the bigger question is *how* they could conceive that even their biggest sycophants wouldn’t scream bloody murder over a greedy stunt like this.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Apple probably grosses an average of fifty dollars per customer on replacement earbuds per year. That is more than selling iLife.

    People talk about the high margins of Apple Products without realizing how high that margin actually is for their subtler products, and for the third parties as well.

    Those accessories are markup city. and they support payroll and drive traffic.

    iPod Shuffle is all about giving away the razors, selling the blades.

  16. Earth Man says:

    I would be more outraged if the device didn’t suck so hard.

    In light of the fact that EVERYONE hates the control-in-the-headset design, I think this particular Apple screw job will go the way of the Newton, eventually.

  17. claud9999 says:

    I’d like a leg and wing of crow, lightly breaded and dusted with salt and pepper, and fried ’til tender. (Mmm, Korean fried chicken == heaven.)

    Seriously, though, I am not fond of the whole “license our technology to get your standard headphones to work with our device” model. It sucked with the 1G phone, $10 for adapters was crap. I thought Apple learned their lesson when the 3G phone came out, folks don’t like having to use adapters.

    But then I’ve also dealt with some really bad third-party headphones and adapters…

  18. jdollak says:

    I’m surprised that anyone is giving this issue that much consideration.
    They’ve created a chip that serves as their way of making a deal with manufacturers that want to label their products as “Made for iPod.” This doesn’t mean that other ones won’t show up. It doesn’t even mean that they’ll be poor quality. This is strictly an advertising issue.

    A comparable issue would be drivers being approved by Microsoft as being compatible with Windows. It doesn’t keep other ones from showing up.

  19. reflex says:

    The new Shuffle points out the biggest flaw in Apple’s design approach. They rely on a small number of brillant people to develop the UI for these gadgets. Small, fanatical groups are more likely create revolutionary designs. They’re also more likely to develop tunnel vision.

    It seems there was no one at the top of the food chain to point out that inline Morse code enabled controls are a dimwitted idea.

  20. shiva7663 says:

    So at least now we know that the color of evil is cinnamon rather than teal….

  21. lillieanns says:

    whether or not the license gets taxed, one has to be aware that this is causing hampering of business ,and i totally agree on this point,
    regards
    lillieAnn’s – Customized Massage & Skin Care Center – Chicago IL

  22. BritSwedeGuy says:

    Imagine if your car had a chip that meant you could only fill up at ‘authorised’ stations.
    You don’t buy Apple kit, you rent it.

  23. lillieanns says:

    whatever the effects ,i also agree on the licencing part,it will affect a lot of other business otherwise,then manufacturering this would with free of conscience,
    regards
    lillieAnn’s – Customized Massage & Skin Care Center – Chicago IL

  24. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    I actually don’t think that controls on the wire are a bad idea. At some point, miniaturization requires separating the active device from the interface so that both can be optimized.
    And when was the last time you got up from the couch and turned a tuner knob to change the channel on the television? Remote control is a well established function. This one’s just a little eccentric but hardly the bleeding edge.
    You want radical design? take a look at B&O I have a Beomaster Control Module remote control here in my desk from a late ’70s B&O 2400 receiver that’s so early it uses ultrasonic rather than RF or IR signals. Some of B&O’s designs go so far in anticipating what you want them to do that you actually have to dumb yourself down to use them. Just push the button that looks like a radio antenna and it does the rest. One of the receivers would actually turn off your Beogram 4004 turntable if you changed to FM while listening to a record.

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  26. Anonymous says:

    Cory is getting near to truth, but this sentence is still wrong and misleading “No, the new iPods have a proprietary chip on the headphone interface that makes it illegal to manufacture third-party headphones unless you have a trademark license from Apple in order to claim “Made for iPod Certification”.”

    You can not legally label things with Apple’s “Made for iPod” trademark unless you obtain a license from Apple. So what does “Made for iPod” mean? It means the connectors fit correctly. It means the electrical signals will be within safe limits and not stress and eventually destroy the iPod. It means the device will tolerate whatever interference the iPod leaks out on the wires without detriment. (Think GSM noise bursts here.)

    It is perfectly legal to sell headphones for iPods with your own microcontroller chip that implements the reverse engineered protocol. (I don’t know about this one, but all previous ones have been trivial nuts and bolts engineering.) But if you want people to think you’ve passed the tests for “Made for iPod”, then you have to really do it.

  27. Bankruptcy copies says:

    yeah, don’t forget the tax. The big companies already have distinct advantages by the freedom to choose the country of production. Set aside enough for the countries. bankruptcy schedules

  28. Anonymous says:

    Bit of a misleading title there Cory. You say in the title that you have to license, but then in your own text that you don’t have to.

  29. Mad Ape says:

    This chip is actually a listening device for a secret black ops division of the CIA. They are watching and listening to everyone and everything.

    It is for this reason I wrap tinfoil around my head and call myself a Hersey Kiss.

    So who wants to kiss me?

    The Mad Ape

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  31. EH says:

    The real question is why do people keep buying Apple’s crap?

    Because it works in my car.

  32. Stiv says:

    So, I’m guessing that ILounge will no longer consider this a “nightmare scenario for long-time iPod fans”?

    From their website:

    What does iLounge think about “Made for iPod?”
    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.

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  37. BCJ says:

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  38. dwes says:

    “There is no encryption or authentication on the chip, so clones could conceivably be made, just not with “Made for iPod” official certification. And now we know!”

    Maybe you should know before you report?

  39. ZekeSulastin says:

    @NTROP: *headdesk headdesk headdesk*

    The whole damned point of this is that there is NO NEED for Apple to include a proprietary chip for a remote when there are already non-proprietary solutions – or easy interoperable solutions – to be had. Ya, the old Sony CD players had proprietary remotes – but you didn’t require headphones blessed by the glorious Apple to go with them, and the remotes were not necessary. Conversely, you’re restricted even further in accessories by the Shuffle both requiring the special chip for whatever reason and not including a dongle because maybe people don’t feel like repurchasing headphones to appease the Apple gods (or spending the same a GOOD mini-player like the Zen Stone would cost to get a dongle).

    All that’s going to happen is that someone is going to release an adapter like Apple should have made to allow any headphones to work, like they should have done on their own. Of course, this would be a non-issue if they realized they were the only company still running with this Idiot Ball of blank players.

    WRT to your poor dock: mayhaps you should have tried several until you got one that responded correctly or had iPhone specifically listed. Also, assuming you have actually used speakers near ANY GSM phone before, you would have heard the good old GSM buzzing by now and probably realised you should check for something like that, especially if you can’t shield the speakers yourself.

    Also, since you seem to have lived under an iRock for the past FOREVER, every blog on the Internet literally LEAPS at the chance to dump all over Microsoft. Did you see how quick the Win7 DRM story came out before it was refuted? The whole blogger “we don’t have to do proper journalism lolz” phenomenon isn’t restricted to your beloved Apple.

    Apple is getting every bit of negative press it deserves for the crap it’s been shoving down peoples’ throats while attention was directed at Microsoft et. al. – we just need to make sure that accurate press is given.

  40. billster says:

    I’m overjoyed at this news. I had a 3rd gen iPod with the Apple remote control; I liked the idea of the remote, but I didn’t like the design of it. I had hoped that another company would make a better one. But no one did. When Apple came out with this new remote control, I had hopes that other companies would make their own version (L shaped plug? Not white? Designed for wearing around the neck) but no one has.

    Now that this “controversy” has erupted, companies are probably tripping over their dicks to make ‘em.

  41. Kid Geezer says:

    So. My reading of this indicates that there is nothing to prevent a quality 3rd party mfg from making a headset with perfectly functional controls without the chip. They just can’t claim in any way that it is made for an Ipod. BFD! I realize that in a down economy people have loads of time to indulge in hissy fits and that Apple is a prime target, but get a (different) grip on yourselves, folks.

  42. Rob Beschizza says:

    By “took off the covering,” Joel means “Completely destroyed.”

  43. ROSSINDETROIT says:

    Thanks for the update and clarifications. This is a really interesting issue, and not just because I’m itching to spill some flux on one of these myself. I predict that within 48 hours ***3E3 will have divulged its secrets.

  44. Kate Henlay says:

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  45. Anonymous says:

    Kudos to the BB Gadgets guys for taking the time to determine the function of the chip embedded in these headphones.

    Those of us who are asking for clarification -like Batu B- are asking for a third update to Mr. Doctorow’s article here
    http://www.boingboing.net/2009/03/13/new-ipods-have-drm-o.html
    that -at a minimum- points back to the newest front-page BB article. As it stands now, folks with an axe to grind can use the linked article to make Apple look worse than they already are. This isn’t fair or just. Promote responsible journalism, update your previous statements with links to new information in a developing story! :)

  46. mcpfol says:

    This is not an authorization chip. This IC encodes and sends button commands to the player. Apple invented a new communication protocol so they can license it to headphone manufacturers.

    Here is how you are screwed: The protocol is likely easy to reverse engineer, and in a couple of weeks all crapvendors will have compatible headphones listed for sale, but if you want a quality headphones from a reputable manufacturer, you will have to pay.

  47. Harrkev says:

    The real questions are:

    1) If anybody tried to reverse-engineer this and make a clone, would they get sued?

    2) Is there any encryption in there?

    As an engineer, given that marketing wants something with three buttons on there, it is not unreasonable to make a chip like this. It is not also unreasonable to sell this to others who what to make compatible headphones. From a simple engineering perspective, this is all very acceptable.

    However, if Apple charges more than $0.50 for this chip, and forbids manufacturers from trying to make their own, that is indeed bad news.

  48. Anonymous says:

    If I make a pair of headphones that uses Apple’s chip, Apple will let me put “Made for iPod” on the packaging.

    If I make a pair of headphones that does not use Apple’s chip, Apple will not let me put “Made for iPod” on the packaging, but won’t stop me from selling them.

    Is this correct? Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    If it is correct, why put the chip in at all? Why not just trademark the phrase “Made for iPod” (or something similar, if that phrase can’t be copyrighted) and pursue copyright complaints against the people who don’t get written authorization from Apple to use it? What is the chip’s function in trademark enforcement that existing trademark laws don’t already cover?

  49. Ansanter says:

    My advice.

    Just don’t buy the thing if you don’t want to have a limited selection of over priced headphones.

    I really don’t see who this device suits so much that they “need” to buy it. Apple can shove all of the proprietary chips they want in their products, because even though the market is saturated with apple, we do have the choice to buy something else.

    I am personally very picky about my headphones. I want something comfortable (so definitely not the default apple buds), something that sounds good, and something that isn’t more than $50 because I use my headphones everywhere and don’t want to cry too badly when they eventually fall apart. So I didn’t even think twice when I saw this product.

    I suppose this is for joggers, but isn’t the nano small enough? Or maybe it is for prisoners. Bernie Madoff can rock out in his minimum security with this stuffed up his rectum.

  50. GeekMan says:

    Think about it. It was almost a year ago now that Apple acquired PA Semi: a fabless semiconductor company. I have little doubt that this is going to make the solution to many engineering challenges at Apple to be: “Meh, let’s just build a chip to do it.”

    And if that means third-party vendors need to put that Apple-designed chip into their products, it rather means they have to BUY it from Apple. Very interesting.

  51. GeekMan says:

    @Ansanter: I wouldn’t worry. It’s only a matter of time before someone manufactures an adapter cable to allow the nano to work with any headphones. Really, if Apple was playing nice, they should have included such an accessory with the product.

  52. Anonymous says:

    Lexmark tried something similar, didn’t work.

    http://www.eff.org/cases/lexmark-v-static-control-case-archive

  53. Anonymous says:

    #9 JACK

    We’ll know that you are right when previous generation Shuffle’s show up on eBay at a higher price than the new ones.

    And the egg on Apple’s face will run. The anti-Apple pundits will run wild.

    Disclaimer: I *am* an Apple fanboy.

  54. krylon says:

    I will say this once and never again – I will not buy a gadget that looks as though it was designed for a single purpose: to be inserted into your rectum.

    These are my first and last words on the new shuffle.

  55. Jack says:

    As someone who loves my clip versions of the iPod Shuffle and generally like Apple products this is a non-issue because this version of the iPod Shuffle is pretty much getting slammed and reviled everywhere. So non-issue on top of a non-product that will most likely be sold for deep discount via Tiger Direct in a few months.

  56. Anonymous says:

    My Gawd …

    Boing Boing, iLounge, CNET, EFF and others hype up this “Now there’s DRM in the headphones!!! Apple must be stopped !!!”

    Turns out no one even knows what they’re talking about. Will there be 3rd party headsets, probably. 3rd party adapters for any headset of choice, probably. 3rd party cheaper alternatives that don’t license Made for iPod, probably. The end of the world due to delusional hyper-speculation about consumer electronics, no!

    Does Jim Cramer write for any of the tech blogs involved in this shenanigan?

  57. Anonymous says:

    Heh.

    Remember that this is the company with a patent for tying a particular electronic gadget to a specific piece of clothing.

    While the first licensee for that particular technology is obviously going to be Nike for their iPod Sport product, I’m betting American Apparel will be second in line to license “Made for iPod” turtlenecks.

    bkd

  58. Frank W says:

    This is beyond planned obsolescence. It’s built b0rked. There’s only so much a spender of money will put up with.

  59. batu b says:

    Gee, now that you helped create a cloud of conspiracy around these headphones, do you think your little Update that Apple says it’s not for DRM is really going to undo it?
    This is why it’s a good idea to confirm with sources before you publish. Since you felt you had to publish before that, why did you have to raise the most paranoid spectre from your speculations? “This mystery chip COULD be DRM!!” is way less responsible than “There’s an unusual chip in here, and we can’t figure out what it’s for. We’ll keep trying to figure out this puzzle.”

    • Joel Johnson says:

      @batu b: Considering we didn’t originally claim it was an authentication chip or DRM but instead said pretty much what you consider to be more responsible, I don’t see that we have much to undo.

  60. InsertFingerHere says:

    Forget left & right & ground for a second. If you put digital signals on those 3 wires, that is plenty to get sound to the ear. ground, +V and data.

    You could have headphones that can display the song info, control the player, communicate with almost anything.

    Or, if there’s no digital chip detected, iPod switches back to a simple analog audio interface.

  61. mko says:

    It would be funny for a 3rd party vendor to create a super small inline plug that embeds the buttons into a thin sheet of plastic that you affix to the side of the shuffle.

    I’m happy you guys are keeping Apple on their toes with this shit… just a matter of days and the mystery is almost completely solved! yay!

  62. jdsnape says:

    This seems very similar to me to the current situations with iPod remotes/ipod docks. These work through the dock connector and require a serial protocol to operate, a protocol which you can only obtain by signing up to Apple’s Made for iPod program.

    Fortunately it’s been reverse engineered over at the iPod linux wiki, so that individuals like myself can manufacture DIY remote applications, and I very much hope something similar will happen with this remote control.

  63. strider_mt2k says:

    Did I mention the 1/8-inch stereo jack soldered in in place of the stock earbuds for DIY universality?

    I mean if you MUST have this…thing.

  64. stretchboy says:

    This will probably be used to allow apple ‘genius’es to say if you don’t use apple headphones you will void the warranty.

  65. Anonymous says:

    I’m highly annoyed and disappointed with the reactionary reporting of all the blogs involved in this story.

    As others have noted it’s important that one gets the full story before spreading FUD.

    I have absolutely no problem if this is for the “Made for iPod” program. If it’s a quality product that Apple is willing to endorse then the manufactures can pay for the licenses.

    If it’s a cut-rate product that Apple feels its best to keep their distance from it will still work but without official sanction.

    -
    “Goddamn it, there’s a funny tube in this here amplifier!”

  66. Rob Beschizza says:

    Batu, you’re funny.

    You just complained that we didn’t write exactly what we wrote!

  67. blip says:

    “There is no encryption or authentication on the chip, so clones could conceivably be made, just not with “Made for iPod” official certification.”

    Be careful, I heard that humble pie has DRM in.

  68. spazzm says:

    Ansanter: Just don’t buy the thing if you don’t want to have a limited selection of over priced headphones.

    Sage advice.
    I can’t imagine why anyone would want to buy any media player that you can’t get RockBox on.

  69. Stiv says:

    Batu:

    I think you’re confusing regular BoingBoing with bbgadgets in that regard. I’m really proud of the Gadgets boys for actually researching the issue as opposed to making overly broad and unfounded proclamations about the evil which Apple has become.

  70. batu b says:

    your headline “We found the chip inside the new iPod headphones…but is it DRM?”
    Then the first half of the article ponders what the implications of a DRM chip or this chip’s ties to the DMCA could be.
    That’s why I’m smelling straw, man!

  71. bardfinn says:

    “That said, a three-button in-line remote could have been easily implemented by Apple without a microcontroller.”

    I know what you /mean/, but a standardised microcontroller (as opposed to many discrete components on a flex circuit board), multiplexing a time-domain-sensitive on/off (with debounce), really is (IMNSHO) simpler: Less bounce to filter, less voltage (and thus RF) spikes, less current draw.

    Apple acquired PA Semi, and with that acquisition came access to PA Semi’s fabrication outsourcing contracts; It is entirely possible that the fab capacity to make some sort of small analog or mixed-signal microcontroller on silicon was already bought and paid for by PA pre-acquisition, possible that the patents Apple would need to implement these came with PA. I don’t know – this is just stuff off the top of my head.

    I would love to know whether the logic inside the Shuffle handling that ring has any digital codecs online. *waits*

  72. sleze says:

    If it isn’t DRM, then will reverse engineering violate the DMCA?

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