iPod shuffle 'authentication chip' threatening headphone DRM?

For something so small, the new iPod shuffle 3G is causing a whole lot of commotion.  Argument around Apple's tiniest PMP is centering on the control system, which has been shifted from the body of the shuffle itself to an in-line pod in the headphones.   Now there's talk of an "authentication chip" buried inside the shuffle that will act as "headphone DRM", with Apple insisting on licensing fees from any third-party manufacturer wanting to make compatible accessories.

As has already been noted, existing third-party headphones are useless with the new iPod shuffle as they lack the control pod; a number of companies – such as Scosche – have announced that they're working on suitably outfitted aftermarket sets, but they won't be available for a while yet.  According to iLounge, though, the situation is more complex than just a box of buttons; they claimed that Apple have fitted an "authentication chip" to the shuffle, which the company will use to extract licensing fees from accessory manufacturers and potentially use the DMCA to wipe out anybody refusing to pay.

That led Boing Boing to go in search of the mysterious chip, and sure enough they found it buried under the control buttons.  Right now there's no definitive confirmation that it's an authentication chip – nor whether it uses encrypted signals, which it would have to in order for Apple to take the DMCA route – but it raises the possibility that future iPod and iPhone models will have an even more draconian accessory licensing policy.  Apple themselves are yet to comment.