Microsoft back to dirty pool with UEFI Secure Boot

With the UEFI Secure Boot it seems MS is back to some of their old, dirtier practices. This time around it involves the ARM platform. Does Windows 8 want to be the only player on tablets and phones?

It's not new news. The upcoming release of Windows 8 will have yet another (probably in-vain) attempt at helping users enjoy a secure computing environment. This time around they are approaching it from the boot perspective and locking down that boot process. I don't pretend to fully understand this decision or process, but I see it as Microsoft's return to their old scare tactics and dirty pool.

Why do I say that? ARM. Why ARM? Because with this new "security solution", Microsoft is locking down ARM devices that ship with Windows 8. Any product with ARM technology inside, that ships with Windows 8, will be required to use UEFI Secure Boot enabled. This means those devices will NOT be allowed to boot any other operating system.

This is a bit different than the state of other architecture. Intel and AMD hardware that ships with UEFI Secure Boot can have that system disabled — meaning other platforms CAN be installed. But who's to say MS won't backpedal on this decision.

Here's the reason why I'm concerned about this:

Microsoft has little to no foothold in the world of ARM. We're talking handsets and tablets. Both of those bits of technology rest securely in the hands of Apple and Android. But we know how Microsoft feels about competition. They want (and understandably so) to get their hands into that pie.

But why would they do so, knowing their schemes and tactics will be nothing more than a throw-back to the late '90s and early '00s? All of a sudden MS is attempting to strong arm ARM and obfuscate their true desires. When MS comes out with a blatantly false statement like:

"Microsoft's philosophy is to provide customers with the best experience first, and allow them to make decisions themselves."

And then revokes user choice on certain hardware, you know something is up. And now that manufacturers are starting to announce the use of ARM chips (such as Qualcomm using Snapdragon processors in Windows 8 tablets and Ultra-book laptops) it's clear, should MS follow through with this edict, more and more hardware will be rendered Windows 8-only.

I know there are people out there already saying "Big deal!", or "This only matters to a select few users." But the truth of the matter is, this is Microsoft doing what it does best — the dirty business of lying. And Microsoft only just started to shed the suit of Antitrust, to start looking as if it could play fair on the court of public opinion. I guess MS figured it was time to let the bully back in the game.

Naturally, in honor of full disclosure, I don't even pretend to understand law. Nor am I anywhere near an expert on the UEFI Secure Boot. But I've seen this time of behavior from MS over and over through the years and every time it winds up with them in court for one thing or another. Or their attempt at securing their Windows environment will fail and it'll be back to the drawing board yet again — and yet again their failed attempt will come at the cost of valuable work time and company resources.

Color me conspiracy, but this just smacks of MS once again pulling out all the stops to keep other platforms off hardware they have every right to enjoy. Microsoft is back at dirty pool. But then, did they ever really leave the game?


Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website

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