Intel defended its Intel Insider feature in the latest Sandy Bridge PC chips, which secures streaming of high definition movies from online movie services to PCs.

The Insider technology is a chip feature that unlocks high definition movies from online streaming services. Controversy has dogged the technology, with audience members at the Consumer Electronics Show saying Intel may be trying to gain control over online movies by requiring users to have Sandy Bridge processors.

But Intel defended the technology, saying the company is trying to provide a security layer that will encourage studios to stream high definition movies to PCs instead of keeping them locked.

Encryption inside

The Insider technology establishes a secure connection between streaming services and PCs with new Core i3, i5 or i7 chips, which are based on the Sandy Bridge architecture. The latest processors, launched at CES on Wednesday, have specialised authentication and encryption hardware and firmware to establish the secure connection.

During a demonstration, the CinemaNow streaming website identified a PC with a Sandy Bridge processor and then started streaming a 1080p version of the movie "Inception."

But Insider is not intended to be digital rights management technology, and it is not intended to limit the availability of content to users, said Josh Newman, graphics marketing director at Intel.

Studios want to protect their premium content, and they are wary of streaming it to PCs which are viewed as insecure devices, Newman said. Insider technology establishes a secure connection to prevent movies from being copied from over the network or inside the PC.

"[Insider] gives PC the level of trust that the studio needs to make their content available. In the past they were very leery of [streaming] content. It's not a DRM technology at all," Newman said.

Non-free freedom?

Insider is convincing studios to feel more comfortable that there is a security layer to protect their streaming movies. Studios can implement their own DRM technology, and Intel will take that into consideration. That should make available more streaming 1080p content, which is not yet available on a large scale.

"If you look at Blu-ray in the PC, that required a protected... path that was developed. It's similar to that, it's a hardened path... to get that next level of hardening and convincing studios that it's a safer environment," Newman said.

Warner Bros currently streams content only in standard definition, but with the new security layer, it will start streaming movies in high definition, said Kevin Tsujihara, president of Warner Bros Home Entertainment Group.

The studio is making 300 new high definition titles available for streaming, and in the future it may also start streaming 3D content to PCs over the secure connections, Tsujihara said.

Studios don't have to implement Insider technology to stream 1080p movies, but they are choosing the hardened security at the hardware level, Intel's Newman said. He did not comment on licensing the technology to other chip makers, or whether Insider technology would be implemented on other chips.