UEFI and Secure Boot: Microsoft limiting free competition?

by Peter

slashdot.org has published the following story:

Hispalinux, which represents Spanish Open Source developers and users, has filed a complaint against Microsoft with the European Commission. 14 pages of grief cited Windows 8 as an ‘obstruction mechanism’ calling UEFI Secure Boot a ‘de facto technological jail for computer booting systems… making Microsoft’s Windows platform less neutral than ever.’ On March 6 of 2012 the Commission fined Microsoft 561 million Euros for failing to offer users a choice of web browser, and there was also a 2004 ruling which found the company had abused its market position by tying Windows Media Player to Windows itself. Relations appear to remain more tense towards Windows in Europe, so there may be some hope of making UEFI more Linux-friendly. UEFI has been implicated in the death of Samsung laptops running Linux.”

Linux vs WindowsI don’t know the extent to which anti-trust and competition rules have a bearing on this case in EU and/or the US, but I do know that UEFI and Secure Boot makes it very hard to install Linux on your machine. I completely crashed my VAIO twice attempting to install first Linux Mint and Ubuntu before I found a neat Ubuntu tool called boot-repair that made it possible to get Ubuntu 12.10 up and running.

There are tons of posts on Linux discussion sites about problems caused by UEFI and Secure Boot on the one hand, and several pretty strong arguments that they really don’t do much to improve security on the other hand. I guess my feeling is that together these two technologies do prevent lots of people from testing out Linux or using Linux alongside Windows by making it very difficult and time-consuming to install Linux. But using hardware to limit software competition in my opinion is bad for consumers. Hardware standards to be open so that competition among software producers is free – and the more intense it gets, the better for consumers, is how I tend to think. So I guess I am more than a little curious about what the outcome of an EU investigation will be?

You may also want to check out what Matthew Garrett writes on this case. Very interesting!

See also Techrights: Microsoft’s UEFI Restricted Boot Delays GNU/Linux Releases, Causes Many Issues for Windows ‘Refugees’ and the quite interesting UEFI Restricted Boot Good for Microsoft Agenda, Not for Security

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