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Microsoft Taking Aggressive Steps Against Linux On ARM 675

New submitter Microlith writes "Microsoft has updated their WHQL certification requirements for Windows 8, and placed specific restrictions on ARM platforms that will make it impossible to install non-Microsoft operating systems on ARM devices, and make it impossible to turn off or customize such security. Choice quotes from the certification include from page 116, section 20: 'On an ARM system, it is forbidden to enable Custom Mode. Only Standard Mode may be enabled' — which prevents users from customizing their security, and in section 21: 'Disabling Secure MUST NOT be possible on ARM systems' to prevent you from booting any other OSes."
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Microsoft Taking Aggressive Steps Against Linux On ARM

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  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @09:07AM (#38696672) Homepage Journal

    As much as i hate to say it, time to get the Feds involved, again.

    Forget piddly sanctions, or even a "breakup". Shut them down once and for all.

    • by Demonoid-Penguin ( 1669014 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @09:25AM (#38696786) Homepage

      As much as i hate to say it, time to get the Feds involved, again.

      Forget piddly sanctions, or even a "breakup". Shut them down once and for all.

      If true....

      1. They don't care - they happily paid the fines for not separating IE.
      2. There's US jobs on the line. (amongst all those work visas)

      I haven't had a chance to check the story fully yet - I read the MS pdf - but it doesn't actually say those measure will be applied to all devices. Being able to lock it, and locking it by default are not the same thing.

      I suspect the story is true, and that MS will pull a security excuse - they've already managed to convince a lot of people that the internet is the OS, and that Google has the monopoly. And I've never seen any changes in the traditional MS approach to doing business - still no set price for their products and underhand incentives (and disincentives). Maybe if they pull the Sony/Apple appliance excuse the regulators (many of whom MS have hired since their last slap on the wrist) will look the other way.

      As the Chinese would say "we live in interesting times".

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 14, 2012 @09:55AM (#38697006)

      Apple/iOS too? Android manufacturers that still lock down their devices too?

      I don't disagree with the idea that people should buy hardware and be able to install whatever the hell they want, but let's be fair here, this isn't something unique what Microsoft is doing here.. If there is going to be some sort of involvement by the government, I'd prefer for there to just be a general law where hardware should not restrict what kind of user-facing software is allowed to run on it, rather than targeting specific companies for being anti-competitive - which I think should only ever be done in the case of monopolies, which doesn't really apply to Microsoft in the mobile marketspace.

    • by Deathlizard ( 115856 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @11:22AM (#38697612) Homepage Journal

      First off, show me the Tablet Monopoly that Microsoft Has. If Microsoft managed to increase their tablet market share 5 times more than it currently has, it still would be in the single digits.

      Second, I don't see any reason why an OEM couldn't just release the same tablet with Android preinstalled instead of Windows 8. In fact, It would be severely stupid not to do it, especially since many of the Win8 tablet price rumors I've seen are at price points that are equal or more expensive than their better positioned and more established Tablet OS equivalents. The Touchpad Fire sale and the Amazon Kindle proved that people do not want to spend a ton of money on a tablet and people will just buy an iPad if your tablet comes close or is higher than Apple's price. If Windows 8 tablets violate both of these rules (which I can almost guarantee will happen). You won't need the feds to step in to stop a windows tablet monopoly from happening, Customer wallet's will do just fine.

      Third, This is no different than Android having a locked bootloader. It will be cracked and people will install other OS'es on it.

      Frankly, and this is coming from someone who is a Fan of Microsoft, Windows 8 is going to flop on tablets and it's going to piss off desktop users because it's so tablet focused it interferes with desktop useability. MS was much better off Focusing Windows 7 mobile in the tablet space, and use the courier as the platform to do it, but they decided to dick around some more while the competition sucked up market share like a vacuum, just like what happened to their smartphone market. It's too little, too late, and too expensive to compete in a marketplace with not one but two heavily established tablet OS'es.

      • by Locutus ( 9039 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @12:55PM (#38698262)
        it is their monopoly on the PC which they are leveraging to force vendors to do these kinds of things. A few years ago, the head of the Taiwanese Manufacturers Association said something very telling during a conference when asked about Linux on netbooks and PCs. He said something to the effect of this, the manufacturers were afraid of Microsoft and so Linux would not be part of PC like devices(PC, laptops) but on devices not currently licensed for Windows they were fine with(phones, routers,etc).

        As we've seen with their IP licensing scams, all those vendors with previous or existing Microsoft licensing contracts signed on the dotted line for "protection" covering Android. So even though they don't have a monopoly on phones nor tablets they wield power from their existing monopoly in the PC segment and can be seen to be using it in demanding features which exclude other OS's from being installed on the hardware. Especially when they are not consistent with that on the PC segment. And it's very public that some businesses and organizations put Linux on devices instead of Windows specifically for better security. Example, the recent DoD migration from Windows to Linux for drone controller systems.

        This will require investigating by the DOJ and not just asking if Microsoft threatens anyone. They'll have to look at lots of email and other statements to build the picture of how Microsoft coerces companies into doing their bidding. I doubt they'll put in the effort though.

      • by Microlith ( 54737 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @01:15PM (#38698418)

        First off, show me the Tablet Monopoly that Microsoft Has.

        I can't, but I'll show you the desktop monopoly that they're leveraging.

        I don't see any reason why an OEM couldn't just release the same tablet with Android preinstalled instead of Windows 8.

        They won't for the same reason they rarely, if ever, release PCs without Windows: they don't want to piss Microsoft off by seriously offering other options.

        You won't need the feds to step in to stop a windows tablet monopoly from happening, Customer wallet's will do just fine.

        And that's why MS is pursuing their lawsuits against distributors of Android: to inflate the costs of Android higher and higher. I'm sure we'll see another round of lawsuits and a per-device royalty fee increase if Microsoft does manage to buy Nokia's patents.

        This is no different than Android having a locked bootloader. It will be cracked and people will install other OS'es on it.

        Cracked, you mean like all the Motorola devices whose bootloader chain has never actually been cracked? Whereas Microsoft can readily ignore pressure, unlike HTC and ASUS, when people pitch a fit after finding out they locked down their bootloader chain. Not that locking down a platform is good in ANY case as it only serves the vendor, not the user.

      • by GPLHost-Thomas ( 1330431 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @01:59PM (#38698846)

        First off, show me the Tablet Monopoly that Microsoft Has.

        We are not talking about tablet, unless you can show me tablets using UEFI. As far as I know, none use it (yet?).

        Second, I don't see any reason why an OEM couldn't just release the same tablet with Android preinstalled instead of Windows 8.

        Maybe because we aren't talking about tablets, but real computers, which are designed to run Windows?

        In fact, It would be severely stupid not to do it

        It would be severely stupid for OEM makers not to make computers that respect the specs of the OS that more than 90% of their customers is using.

        Third, This is no different than Android having a locked bootloader. It will be cracked and people will install other OS'es on it.

        Again, did you realize that we aren't talking about tablets, but about UEFI secure boot, which is going to replace (and in some case, is already replacing) your good old MBR by a (mostly, FAT) partition containing the bootloader? Maybe you should read this: []

      • by suomynonAyletamitlU ( 1618513 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @06:09PM (#38700996)

        That's not how monopolies work. Or I guess I should say, that's not how anti-competitive leverage works.

        Take manufacturer "X". X wants to sell laptops and desktops running Windows, servers running both Windows and various UNIX flavors, and tablets running Windows and maybe Android.

        X, naturally, must purchase licenses for Windows in bulk from Microsoft. Possibly tens of thousands of licenses, or more if they're a very large manufacturer. You understand at this point that this is a significant expense.

        So they come to Microsoft, who them sits down at a conference table and says, "So, you're going to make sure people can't use your tablets (and anything else that's running off ARM with UEFI) to boot anything but Windows, right?"

        The X execs look at each other. "Hadn't thought about it."

        "Well, we can give you a bigger discount if you do..."

        The X execs now get to choose between turning down money or not turning down money. We'll leave the conclusion as an exercise for the reader.

    • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @11:29AM (#38697658) Journal

      Won't happen. The anti-trust trial was nothing but a shake down. Before the anti-trust trial Microsoft gave almost nothing [] in donations. They started contributing, and they got a slap on the wrist and allowed to continue anti-competetive behavior.

  • by sethstorm ( 512897 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @09:11AM (#38696698) Homepage

    MS is fine with all those junk-grade tablets, just that they don't want something like the N900 to pop up. They were able to kill that by all-but acquiring Nokia and making sure Elop would kill the N9.

    So take your "not target market" or "find a device that suits you" complaints and stuff them, tyvm.

  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @09:11AM (#38696706)

    Seems these criminals have forgotten the last lesson in not behaving anti-competitively already. Time to fine them a few billions to make them remember.

    • by arisvega ( 1414195 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @10:30AM (#38697306)

      Time to fine them a few billions to make them remember.

      On a state level, perhaps. But on a user level, this sounds like their old "we-are-your-only-option-deal-with-it" behavior: they seem to be stuck in the 90's- can't they see that users can simply turn their back on them nowadays? Users that they have never respected?

      Microsoft is treading on thinner ice than ever.

  • by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @09:25AM (#38696788) Homepage

    Making it impossible to dual-boot your ARM device. Security for the boot sector is one thing, making it impossible to install another OS by choice is something else.

    • by Junta ( 36770 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @09:56AM (#38697016)

      There are plenty of phone/tablet devices with measures to explicitly prevent other OSes from being put in place. Telling is that the 'OS' in PC world is considered software and in the phone/tablet world they have sucessfully got people calling it 'firmware'. This market is trying to blur the division between the platform and the OS to significant success. Every 'OS' vendor is expected to compete by getting a partner to release hardware around the OS. That means less room for startups or grass-roots OS creation, only certain Android hardware devices are a viable target.

      That market is a plethora of monolithic devices with no configurability in hardware or software. This is a huge step back from the state of x86 systems where so much is socketed and mixing and matching is possible by the consumer thanks to rigorous standards in place to make it all possible. The 'primary' targeted OS runs as well as the primary OS on any of these devices, and while an alternative OS may fail to integrate properly with the device (Linux-Vendor ACPI was a sore spot for eternity, better now), the user can make the tradeoffs if they choose.

  • by Windwraith ( 932426 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @09:27AM (#38696802)

    News about Microsoft can get conflicting, on one day you get a massive push for right stuff like open source and other good practices, and then you get stuff like this that sounds like the Microsoft of old.

    I am wondering, how many divisions exist within Microsoft? I mean divisions capable of giving such conflictive news. I can't help but feel a part (probably formed of younger staff or management) is trying to do the right thing while other part (probably formed of old-school people from the times of anti-trust) is adhering to their old self. If this were to be the case, I hope the former ends up having more control of the company, really. I kinda hate to have to hate Microsoft at this point.

  • by Gonoff ( 88518 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @09:28AM (#38696810)
    Microsoft managed to escape being dismembered by having politicians do what they wanted,
    The legal process needs revisiting. The same sort of charges can be brought. Perhaps, if found guilty, this time it could be concluded properly with the criminal being punished and prevented from committing the same crimes yet again.
    • by Pecisk ( 688001 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @09:51AM (#38696968)

      They are in despair. They are too late in mobile market. They start to understand that, but they still have this strong hand mentality. They tried it with Windows Mobile - nope, didn't worked. They are tried with lot of different concepts - also wasted. Now the same with ARM notebooks/tablets.

      They don't understand that it is too late. People has seen tomorrow without Microsoft. Tablet competition is very strong out there. What is your killer feature? Office? Who needs that? Email, web - it's all there, it's everywhere.

  • Simple Solution (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @09:30AM (#38696828)

    Tablet makers offer ARM tablets without WHQL Certification preloaded with Linux or Android.

    I mean they don't need to install Windows 8 on the things when there's perfectly good alternatives around, and it seems like adhering to a document more than 150 pages long is a time wasting PITA when you can simply go to a competitor and be done with it.

    • Re:Simple Solution (Score:4, Informative)

      by Rockoon ( 1252108 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @09:48AM (#38696952)

      Tablet makers offer ARM tablets without WHQL Certification preloaded with Linux or Android.

      They dont even have to be preloaded with either. They can be preloaded with Windows 8 .. just not WHQL certified.

      WHQL certification means something only when upgrading to a new version of Windows is a selling point... for instance when Vista was just around the corner many manufacturers started selling computers certified to run Vista, even though it wasnt available yet...

      ..there was a big stink about that too, because Intel's shitty integrated video got certified but was incapable of the glitzy shit Vista promoted (we all remember that, right?)

      We are talking about if the manufacturer can legally put a sticker on the box, not their capability to install Windows 8.

    • Re:Simple Solution (Score:5, Insightful)

      by king neckbeard ( 1801738 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @09:52AM (#38696976)
      Not playing nice with MS means that they get bum deals on licenses for Windows machines, which major OEMs are selling.
  • by amoeba1911 ( 978485 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @09:51AM (#38696970) Homepage
    I've been using Windows for a long time. I do not like Windows. Other's agree with me, people who use Windows do not like Windows. People who use Windows like the software they run on Windows.

    Microsoft thinks that people LOVE Windows. That's why they created Windows CE, and that was a massive failure. People want to run their x86 software on the computer, and last time I checked Windows 8 ARM can not run x86 software, so your software collection is junk all of a sudden.

    If you give most people a choice between Linux vs Windows, they will choose Windows. If you give them a choice between Windows that wont run their apps, and Linux that wont run their apps but at least already has a large library of software, then they will Choose Linux.
    • by JustNiz ( 692889 )

      I'll bet that Microsoft already have realised that and already have a "working" solution (think x86 emulator + WINE-like layer) waiting in the wings so everyone can run (slowly) win86 binaries on ARM from day 1.

    • by Sir_Sri ( 199544 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @12:30PM (#38698062)

      Lol, no, they won't. They'll try linux once, get a set of instructions that tell them to open a terminal $sudo, stop reading, and go back to Windows. On the desktop anyway.

      But we're talking about phones, and 'gadgets' slates etc. Have you ever used WP7? It's nifty. It's definitely different than the iOS clone that Android is. I don't have a WP7 device of my own, but I can certainly see the appeal, I've played with a few of them and they feel very different than anything else, and they are pretty neat, live tiles is a good concept, as would be the xbox integration if I ever used my xBox. I'm not sure 'better' or 'worse' applies, but the market is new enough there's room for designed differently, which it is, and people who like this design rather than the iOS style will like it.

      Believe it or not, people outside the /. bubble hate linux. Well that's not quite true, they actually hate things that break, and windows and linux both break for mostly the same reasons: bad drivers, bad hardware, and software problems users know nothing about. But they at least know more about Windows, and have better free support for windows from friends than there is for Linux, and instructions for how to solve problems on window are written for idiots.

      People like to bitch about windows because it's fashionable, and because it tends to produce obfuscated error messages. But every piece of software does that, including Linux. Windows on ARM is for gadgets, not desktops, so you're buying all new software from somewhere, if you want it for your gadget. Now, are you going to buy software you know, that's a recompile from the x86, or software you don't?

  • by JustNiz ( 692889 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @09:54AM (#38696988)

    Microsoft will get dragged through the courts for anti-competitive behaviour once again. You'd think they'd have learnt their lesson from the whole IE bundling thing that cost them very serious money.

    Even if the US gov is corrupt enough to let this slide, there's no way Microsoft will get away with this in the EU or anywhere else.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by KiloByte ( 825081 )

      Sadly, Apple manages to get away with this.

  • by Ice Station Zebra ( 18124 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @10:25AM (#38697258) Homepage Journal

    If the only choices are Apple and Microsoft.

  • Who cares (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GreyGroom ( 1766742 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @10:28AM (#38697286)
    If MS wants to have built giant cell phones with really happy software locked onto it let them. It will be jailbroken in fractions of a second. Or I can strip it down and run a virtual machine. MS cannot lock the machine down enough to prevent it. They are not that good.
  • Whew (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jon3k ( 691256 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @11:21AM (#38697610)
    Well it's good to know I don't have to every consider buying a Microsoft device. If I hate it or want to get more life out of it later, I can't install anything else on it, so it's not even a remote possibility. That's nice of them, it makes my purchasing decisions that much easier, I can just write them off entirely.
  • Micorosft is finaly realising their dream of creating a TCPA compilant plataform, iOS and Android aren't getting any more open and the smartphone market is finaly big. Everything is good now for somebody to pull a "PC" on phones.

    Create an extensible standard for ARM (we are near there already), sell a basic machine folowing that standard, then, sell extended versions. Make sure to publish the drivers with your Linux kernel (get them in the main tree if possible), and laugh while developers adopt your architecture.

    Once you have the developers, getting users is just a matter of time. Be sure to use your first mover advantage wisely, and sell the company before the market get completely comodityzed.

  • Intel's new Medfield Atom [] will run Android phones and tablets, Tizen [] devices, Win 8 tablets and (if MSFT get's their head screwed on correctly) Win Phone. Since the underlying firmeware environment in the medfield platforms is driven by Intel's reference design, MSFT will not be able to dictate whether other OSes can boot any more than they can in the rest of the x86 world. (Assuming OEMs will be smart enough to let customers control UEFI authentication)

  • by BlueCoder ( 223005 ) on Saturday January 14, 2012 @03:05PM (#38699474)

    Everything is hackable. Hardware is the new frontier.

    There will be so much interest in Microsoft's private keys that they will be the prime target. They will need to have different keys for all devices just to maintain moderate security and that won't stop hardware hacking.

    Let me repeat, the only way to defeat crackers is monetize the industry and give them a big cut of the action. Crackers against crackers. They design the system and if it's cracked their percentage goes to paying off the cracker. You end up with DRM companies trying to crack each others systems.

You will never amount to much. -- Munich Schoolmaster, to Albert Einstein, age 10