Windows 8 optimize

An argument against the new secure boot feature in Windows 8

Donovan Colbert argues that settling for mandatory, walled gardens is giving away the liberty to use your hardware as you see fit.

In a recent post on ZDNet, Ed Bott defends Microsoft's decision to integrate Windows 8 more tightly with hardware platforms through locked-down boot loaders that are difficult to circumvent. Ed's argument is well researched and presented, but it fails to ask the most important question of all: What is gained by requiring ARM-based Windows 8 devices to support a "secure boot" locked boot loader? What does Microsoft gain from this policy and what are the gains for end users?

In his article, his private blog, and a follow-up discussion on Google+, Ed argues that this is all about security and a more reliable, stable end-user experience. I don't think that the improved security can really be argued. Apple has demonstrated that through their iOS model (and really, to a lesser extent, through OS X, which requires special hardware to run OS X -- even if that hardware will readily run other IA86/64 architecture OS platforms).

There's no doubt that Apple's carefully curated, locked-down, and walled garden pays dividends on a more reliable user experience for the lowest common denominator of PC user. But the price of that security is huge, because it requires Apple users to place unconditional trust in the integrity and ethical stewardship of Apple. In addition, the carefully managed and restricted hardware ecosystem enables Apple to engage their end users in a cat-and-mouse game, where the most technical iOS users constantly try to jailbreak their iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touches -- and Apple pushes out updates that I think goes beyond just trying to disable the jailbreak. In fact, it seems to me that Apple sheds no tears when an iOS update bricks jailbroken devices.

Here is my response to Ed's post on his Google+ stream:

I think there can be a balance. The problem with locked-down ecosystems is that they give too much control to the corporations behind the platforms. They're not transparent enough -- and it is clear that disclosure is not a top priority for the organizations behind these kind of devices. You can lock down a system for consumer end use but still make it easily hacked and opened by more technical consumers.

Android has everything in place to make the default end-user experience more curated -- all they would have to do is start policing their market better. At the same time, it's an easy thing to enable side-loading and to allow "development" apps to run. The TF201 by ASUS is a great example of a product where the device sells with a locked-down boot loader, but they've made the utility available so that you can disable the locks if you're inclined (at your own risk).

Settling for mandatory walled gardens is giving away the liberty to use your hardware as you see fit. I don't think we should let the convenience and safety of the lowest rung of technology users set the defaults for user access to hardware and platforms. This is kind of a variation on the classical theme of giving up liberty for security. I don't want the lowest common denominator setting the bar for the accessibility of my devices.

Someone said if there's a demand for open platforms, it will be met. But if it's a niche of technology users, the price for those platforms will be outrageously inflated. It goes without saying that open systems allow the technically adept to investigate and protect everyone else, as was the case with CarrierID. On a system that's locked down to the point where it's difficult for anyone to hack, those kind of secrets are less likely to see the light of day.

There's no reason why mainstream devices can't provide a carefully monitored and curated experience, while also maintaining accessibility and openness for those who are skilled and willing to take the risk. This emerging philosophy from Microsoft is one of the major deal breakers for me with WP7. I don't want to be restricted by Apple's walled garden, so why would I settle for Microsoft's?

My analysis is more about extending the philosophies of Windows Genuine Assurance in an attempt to finally put a dagger in the heart of the long-standing battle Microsoft has waged against platform piracy than about providing end users a better experience. It's the ultimate extension of Microsoft's desire to see users play by their rules and on their approved hardware.

In that regard, it probably will address a lot of the challenges Microsoft has faced with providing an "every PC" operating system. They'll be able to do away with their HCL, because if it runs on a hardware platform, it will be a HCL-approved device by default. Fortunately, Microsoft is not dominant in this playground. Ironically, Google Android is -- the same Android platform that's maligned for being insecure and running on wildly fractured devices and OS versions. However, these are the same qualities that made Windows dominant through the 90s.

Ultimately, I don't think it will make a big difference what Microsoft does with Windows 8 running on ARM-based devices, if they decide to go this route. Instead, it will be another attempt by Microsoft to become viable in the personal digital media device market, but largely disregarded by consumers and technology professionals.

After all, we've already got a vendor with a huge head start, lots of experience, and a rich ecosystem delivering this model. What kind of value-add does Microsoft bring, when they're rapidly losing traction on their traditional model that used to provide an incentive to buy into their platform? I've been wrong before about things like this, but I just can't see where this approach offers a compelling reason for Android and iOS adopters to switch back -- and I don't think there are enough Microsoft loyalists waiting for this platform to make it work.

About

Donovan Colbert has over 16 years of experience in the IT Industry. He's worked in help-desk, enterprise software support, systems administration and engineering, IT management, and is a regular contributor for TechRepublic. Currently, his profession...

33 comments
Gisabun
Gisabun

"Apple has demonstrated that through their iOS model....." There is a big difference here. Apple only allows Apple made [more like made for them] mobo. So they can shut out anyone who tries to install OS X on a non-Apple hardware. In comparison, you can install Windows on any hardware [even Apple] because Microsoft isn't selling the system - just the OS. They could in theory set something up such that Windows 8 will only install on specific mobos but I don't think many will like that. So Microsoft has to resort to protecting the boot loader. As for the Linux develops and their minyons that are complaining, bhoo hoo. There is always something called a virtual machine [heard of it?]. Either install Windows 8 and put your Linux OS in a VM or vice versa. Surprised they aren't complaining about the new file system....

TNT
TNT

ARM-based Windows Metro slates will be little different from Metro phones (they won't run full Win8). The Metro phone is locked down, the Metro slate will also be locked down, that's one market so who cares? I mean, there is an alternate market If you want a device you can "tinker" with -- buy an Intel version that runs full Windows 8 and that you can disable the platform lock on. Those who want the device to "just work" get their way, and those who want to "tinker" can have theirs. Where's the problem?

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

Seems I remember reading somewhere it was just a matter of getting the security keys accepted by the OEMs. To me, that seems the simplest method of going forward. One of Linux' supposed strengths is its security, here's a chance for those in control of the Linux kernel to demonstrate that security. Otherwise, if you look at the "big picture", few end-users install a second operating system, and there aren't that many that buy "boxed" OS install media for an upgrade, it's more economical to purchase a new system.

MikeGall
MikeGall

Tinkerers want to tinker. But the question is are most people tinkerers? I think the vast majority of people are happy with devices that do approximately what they said they would with minimal hassles. This is why Apple has been so successful with a closed system. If the device does what you want out of the box who cares? Side loading is a good option I think and probably a better way to go. Have a App Store for most things and a button with warnings all over the place allowing you to load things outside of the store. As for having to trust the company to manage security for you: not really. They set a bar that things have to cross to get in the store. Nothing stops you from making your own decisions on whether or not you want to trust "Burn My Phone" from some small dev shop in China, but at least there is some bar which is better than no bar for the vast majority of users (those that download random crap without an AV on their PC from the internet and then act shocked when they get a virus).

bboyd
bboyd

He is back big time it seems.

jkameleon
jkameleon

... I configured my new box for dual boot with Linux. Now, I use Linux on regular basis. I boot Windows maybe once a month. Barring some unforeseen circumstances, my next machine will be Linux only. If "grandpa box" manufacturers start making their machines Apple or Windows only, I'll go with Pandaboard or Beagleboard with 1-2 TB SD (they should be out by then).

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

I now see that virus attack anything that moves in the computer.You could get the root kit boot sector virus out but there'a a stream of them that continue the attack.An adapter card with striped drives seems to give the computer more power against such a problem.

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

I now suspect that all offered operating systems are downloaded then copied.You could probably check,even with an older disk,to see if the OS was downloaded or if it is a copy off a master disk.I would be upset if I paid money for an OS that was downloaded instead of a copy from the original.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Where do you come down on the issue of the Windows 8 secure boot feature? As someone who doesn't spend much time changing operating systems, I admit to being only academically interested - but there is obviously some passion contained in the issue. What is your take? What issues does a secure boot feature create?

dcolbert
dcolbert

But the net effect is the same. The net effect - you can only install OS X on Apple approved hardware (although you *can* install non-Apple OS platforms that are IA86 instruction-set compatible on Apple hardware if you really want to pay more to run Windows or Linux as the sole OS on an Apple machine). In Microsoft's case - with bootlocked ARM devices, not only can you only install the ARM based Windows 8 on approved Windows 8 compatible hardware, but you also can't install anything ELSE on that hardware, either. So it is arguably even more restrictive than Apple's method, but either way, your OS vendor gets to tell you what you can and can't run on their hardware, and where you can and can't run their OS. Now - Windows 8 for IA86/64 will still be around and will likely remain a viable and dominant platform - so there remains more flexibility from Microsoft in the Intel Architecture platform world - but it creates a fork that I find troubling, none-the-less.

dcolbert
dcolbert

The argument seems to be, "You'll still be able to use legacy platforms that are slowly becoming legacy solutions. We're only locking down the new, shiny, more efficient technology that everyone wants. What is the problem? You've still got options." ARM is more power efficient per clock cycle than IA86/64. This translates into lighter devices that run longer and generate less heat. That is a huge part of what is driving their adoption today. That is one reason why ATOM based devices don't compete well with ARM devices in lightweight mobile computing devices. Your dual core Atom running at 1.6Ghz requires a loud fan that is consuming more battery life to dissipate all the heat being generated by your CPU core. A quad-core ARM running at 1Ghz requires no fan because it is running so much more efficiently per cycle. So consumer devices are bound to move toward these more efficient, less expensive, overall better-performing technologies. I keep asking this - explain the harm in ALLOWING ARM based Win 8 devices to be unlocked under this scenario: Let the devices come locked down, with all the "consumer benefits" that supporters of this decision claim exist. But like ASUS did with the Transformer Prime - allow owners to download a boot-loader UNlocker with the specific disclaimer that unlocking their device will disable any features that require locked DRM technology and will void their warranty. Neon's claim above about older generation iPhones applies here. Under that condition what is the harm? (One of...) The benefit(s) is that the device is still (easily) supportable by community efforts after the manufacturer has put the device at end-of-life and support cycle.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

The Red Hat developer who first commented does a much better job of explaining the issue so take my points with a grain of salt. Vendor support is one issue. It's hard enough to get vendors to work distributions based on the Linux kernel or BSDs to build in hardware support by providing interface specs or driver binaries. Try getting the motherboard manufacturers to now work with alternative OS distributions getting boot loaders signed. Red Hat, SUSE and Ubuntu may have a chance but the more obscure distributions our locked out cold. If you could get vendors to work with distributions remember that a primary point of open source is the source code being open and editable by the device owner (if they so choose) along with teh freedom to run what software you want on your own hardware for your own desired purpose. It's fast paced development that can evolve as quickly as someone interested can edit code and recompile; with each recompile you need to re-sign the boot loader so it authenticates against UEFI's certificate which means the user has to be ablet o sign there own software which means the certificate to sign it has to be publicly accessible. And now we've negated the core alleged benefit of Secure Boot because anyone including criminals can sign code. Solve those two issues and you still need to look at how the certificates work. If you have one UEFI certificate pair that all boot loaders are signed with then all OS are vulnerable the moment that one signing cert is exposed to criminals. if you have a per boot loader or per OS distribution certificate pair then how do you manage it between all potential OS distributions and UEFI/Motherboard vendors? All in all, it's a fantastic coup for Microsoft if they manage to instatutionalize it because they can almost garrantee stiflying all competitive OS outside of Apple who is actually a hardware vendor that happens to produce it's own embedded OS for it's hardware products. Everyone else is beholden to the general purpose hardware vendors who, in this case, would be baught off by a single OS brand name vendor. Ha.. found a great reference when looking to give you a link. I'll be reading this over today and recomment those wondering why Secure Boot is a problem for non-Win8 OS do read it over also. http://mjg59.dreamwidth.org/9844.html

dcolbert
dcolbert

Although I know this argument is seen as driven by the Linux community. One of the things I love about Android is that the open qualities of the platform allow alternate markets, including Amazon's to exist. With an iPhone, you've got to jailbreak and use Cydia. I'm not aware of any other alternative stores for iOS - and to get there, you have to play a somewhat dangerous game of jail-breaking that is still legally murky *and* has undoubtedly resulted in countless completely bricked iOS devices that are effectively garbage. For a company that pays so much lip service to being green - it seems horribly ecologically irresponsible to create a situation where you know perfectly useful devices are going to be rendered completely unusable. The WP7.x walled garden is even more restrictive at this point, I believe? There is no hack, and no gray-market alternative store to use even if you do break the security. Correct me if I'm wrong - I haven't done any research on this - and I'm relying on the absence of any information to draw this conclusion. To my mind, there are larger implications than what OS platform you can install on your device if it is locked versus unlocked. I mean, that is ONE consideration, and as we move to a more ubiquitous prevalence of these machines and a subsequent decreasing influence of previous platforms it becomes ever more important - but it is simply that when you lose control of your device like this - a *lot* of alternatives and options are removed from the table. I believe that part of the vibrant and successful technology industry we have today is the result of the success of open hardware platforms versus closed alternatives. IA86 is a cat that got out of the bag when IBM didn't really lock down on their rights with the original PC 5150 and XT. That little mistake allowed all kinds of innovations and industry opportunities. At the time, we had a world with proprietary Apple, Commodore, Atari, TI and countless other devices that all had their own hardware form of a walled garden. At maturity, all of those fractured platforms disappeared, and IA86 technology dominated (and continues to dominate, despite waning influence). That has been ALL kinds of GOOD, not bad. But no one is going to make that IBM mistake today - unless Google is successful with Android making that mistake on PURPOSE. In a lot of ways though, we're headed BACK to where we were during the 8/16 bit era of personal computing - with a lot of proprietary devices with locks and safeguards and closed platform designs. It isn't a perfect analogy - but it is close. Only this time we're being told "these are devices, these are disposable, these are commodity prices, it isn't the same thing". Maybe that is true - but it doesn't sit quite right with me. I think the PC revolution empowered consumers more than corporations would have liked them to be empowered. With lots of locks and security check-points, the corporations think this time they can grab a little of that power back for themselves while limiting the horizons available to consumers and end-users.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I now have two perfectly good Iphones at home.. except that Apple does not ship any updates for them. I don't want a future where general purpose hardware is made obsolete based on a companies marketing calendar. Want to take an old machine a re-purpose it? Nope.. we can't allow that.. you'll have to run Windows8 with all the patches that add enough weight to make the hardware unusable.. we can't allow low resource OS replacements that extend the usable life of the hardware. And when win8 goes end of life that perfectly viable hardware is now in the bin; we're back to supporting a companies marketing calendar instead of enabling users. Donate old hardware to programs like Hackersforcharity.org.. this binding of general purpose hardware to a specific brand name of general purpose software calls that into question. Schools that can't afford to scrap old hardware a buy into the newest OS bundled versions.. they will potentially be out of luck too. What of future generations of tinkerers? How many folks developed the interest to tinker and explore because it was possible with whatever old handmedown hardware they had available? For me, having limited access to hardware upgrades drove discovering how to expand the usefulness through software programs and alterantive OS. We can't allow potential future tinkerers that opetunity now though can we because that doesn't support the company's marketing calendar. See, it's not just about the "me, me, me" consumer that doesn't think of a devices use beyond "will it do what me want out of the box until me buy new upgrade in a year".

LeMike
LeMike

I leapt onto XP as a big improvement over Win2K, skipped Vista as a problem child, and haven't ever needed to use Win7 (except on a machine provided by my work). At home I started an eeeBox on Linux about 3 years ago; and bought a System-76 Bonobo mega-laptop a few months ago. Now all my Windows work is in VMs on that laptop. Am I happy? You bet!!

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

It's small. It's cheap. It's in the manufacturing stage right now and it'll be available to both schools and civilians. at 25~50 dollar Ubuntu desktop that can do HDMI video out of interest?

dcolbert
dcolbert

A Pandaboard or Beagleboard running Linux marginalizes you from the mainstream path of the rest of the digital world. It puts you in a world where Netflix is out of reach, where mainstream apps are largely inaccessible - and it likely causes the hardware to become a "niche" offering for techs just like you - meaning that it becomes a market that by sheer numbers has less economy of scale and must bear a higher market price than similar hardware platforms built on "mainstream" (but locked) equipment. You don't WIN if this is the route you are forced into - you merely find an expensive and less rewarding alternative that allows you to maintain your principles. It is fantastic that those options are out there for people like you who are willing to make those sacrifices (or who don't see it as a sacrifice at all). I'm not trying to turn this into a debate about *nix or the ideology of open hardware design and platforms. But I don't see a locked Windows ARM 8 bootloader driving a massive surge in the interest in those solutions. Instead, I see most consumers accepting this move with docile apathy and a small minority of end-users like yourself being forced into alternatives like you mention in your post above and accepting significant trade-offs in order to do so. To me, in that scenario, end users and consumers lose. You've got to think on a larger scale than just what you are willing to accept and be content with. The big picture is that today you live in a world where you're not FORCED into the kind of alternative you describe above - but tomorrow, you (and every other end user) may be forced to make that decision. It is worth adding that according to Gizmodo, the DMCA provision that makes jailbreaking and rooting is set to expire. http://gizmodo.com/5879180/jailbreaking-or-rooting-your-phone-could-become-illegal-again-fight-it That puts a whole different angle on this issue beyond if it is locked or unlocked and if it is difficult or easy to hack. At that point, it becomes ILLEGAL to do so regardless. This is an unprecedented move to take control of our digital technology from the end-user-owner and put it back in the hands of the corporations who manufacturer these boxes. It seems like a pretty big deal to me.

dcolbert
dcolbert

"All in all, it's a fantastic coup for Microsoft if they manage to instatutionalize it because they can almost garrantee stiflying all competitive OS outside of Apple". That is the big take away, right there - and I think you just did a great job of explaining *exactly* why that is. It made sense to me, anyhow. With previous hardware platforms - you didn't need this key - so alternatives like Linux could be created and multiple distributions could fork because there were no barriers to entry. Despite being critical of Linux and FOSS, I still value the fact that open hardware platforms allowed for an environment where such an alternative could take root and grow. In a future where each vendor has their hardware locked down with this UEFI cert key - that kind of accessibility disappears like a wind-blown mist. Really, as a strategic business move, it is brilliant if they can pull it off and establish market dominance with this model. Basically, for Linux to remain competitive in a future where these devices become the dominant manner of how users interface with digital platforms - there would have to be a separate branch of Linux-accessible hardware. Instead of being able to enjoy the ability to piggyback on technology that dominants 80% of the market, with a 2% market share Linux would have to drive some sort of viable market that would encourage manufacturers to design machines solely for open OS platforms. That seems unlikely. If ARM devices with boot-loaders replace traditional architecture devices as the dominant device platform - it is effectively game-over for Linux - at least for the consumer desktop segment of the market. IA86/64 technology will probably continue to be viable and dominant in the enterprise (although I could see ARM type devices being contenders in the corporate DESKTOP) - and so Linux would still be able to have a presence there. Consumer grade home computing though, could become an entirely different story. So the question becomes - is it fair for Microsoft to insist that devices that run their ARM version of Windows 8 require UEFI certificate keys, or not? No one is forcing manufactures to concede to this demand - and if they do - it simply means that Linux has to find a way to remain viable and competitive. If Linux cannot, maybe Linux simply isn't viable in a changing landscape of hardware platforms?

dcolbert
dcolbert

I'd recommend anyone who is interested in this topic and a Google+ member to follow ZDNet writer Ed Bott and follow up on his conversation thread there on this topic. Neon - on that thread, I recently used the example of a soft-modded original Xbox as an example - that goes right along with what you are saying here. The question is - what is the HARM caused by allowing devices to be unlocked and tinkered with while still providing a safe, secure and locked DEFAULT experience (much the way that the ASUS TF201 comes locked, but you can download a utility from ASUS to unlock it - if you're willing to accept deactivated features and a voided warranty)... Here is an excerpt from that conversation: " If I want to softmod my original Xbox - what is the problem? Honestly, who is soft-modding original Xbox consoles to pirate GAMES at this point? They're doing so to enhance FEATURES and increase lifecycle on a platform that would otherwise be wasting in basements and landfills. Isn't that REALLY where the harm comes from? Consumers who can do something like soft-modding their Xbox extend the useful life of that device, causing a disruption of the artificial life-cycle that vendors and manufacturers want to enforce on those products. The harm is to corporate profits - not to end-users. The harm isn't caused by "bypassing security measures", stealing or piracy. The harm is caused by users empowering themselves to utilize their own hardware to its limits - rather than the arbitrary and unnaturally low limits that vendors have designed into their devices. " A softmodded Xbox with Da** Small Linux and Xbox Media Center still has a very useful life in an entertainment center - but making that available to consumers has no obvious incentive or benefit for Microsoft. They would like your original Xbox to be in storage or in a dump, and $300+ coming out of your pocket to replace it with an Xbox 360 (and more to buy a whole new library of games, and to PAY for media-entertainment options as well). That is just one of the more blatant HARMS that affect consumers when a device is boot-locked. It is easier for a manufacturer to enforce planned obsolescence. I can't see the reason or logic in defending this decision by Microsoft. In the long run, limiting access and options only hurts the consumers and only benefits vendors and manufacturers.

jkameleon
jkameleon

The issues you're talking about look substantially different from professional and personal point of view. Institutional user (governments, corporations etc) always has to depend on someone to take care of the information (employees, consultants, outsourcerers, cloud providers etc), and it also has enough money and legal muscle to deal with that. If the institution is not a niche player, it's better off in the mainstream. Individual user with little money and no legal rights is much better off if he chooses to take his own responsibility for his own information. Having your information at somebody else's mercy will always cost you more at the end. Being a mainstream consumer is generally more expensive. The result: Windows at work, and Linux at home.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

In the generations before me, hardware was prohibitively expensive and common only among businesses so DIY and reusing old hardware has always been fundamental to the young Hackers who end up as future IT staff or inventors who push tech evolution forward. In my case, access to scavenged hardware was extremely rare due to the lack of it in the local trash piles so I went the more accessible software route. I probably would never have gotten past the superficial UI only power-user stage with hardware/software arbitrarily bound to each other instead of being open to discovering that hardware/OS/programs where separate things that layered on top of each other. Year's later when computers become common place, my dad's first retirement project was collecting discarded machines for businesses and refurbishing them for schools and folks who couldn't afford to buy machines. That would likely be impossible in a Secure Boot world let alone one where the OS vendor had chosen to drop support for the OS version on that discarded hardware. A close friend is a true hardware hacker who constantly has discarded hardware find it's way to his door in addition to what he still discovers in the pile behind the apartment building. It's rare that he doesn't have a machine coalescing from spare parts to be handed off to someone that can make use of it. Dumpster Diving and the scavenger ways are still vibrantly alive even though hardware costs are not as prohibitive to all but big business budgets.

dcolbert
dcolbert

One of my best engineers likes to tell stories about how his first PCs were scavenged by dumpster-diving parts from discarded machines and piecing together a single working machine from the wreckage of multiple "obsolete" devices. This is a geek tradition that goes back as far as I can remember. When the desktop started to lose dominance and laptops were becoming the new big thing - I worried about this to a certain degree - especially in the earliest days when every laptop had a proprietary design that included a lot of non-modular components. Back then, it was far more frequent that a peripheral device like a CD or hard drive couldn't be used from one machine to another among the same manufacturer. I suppose there is still a LOT of that - but I also think it has gotten better with standard interfaces, memory modules, and other components. This seems to be an extension of that general direction - in a far more locked-down manner.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

so naturally, I think your bang on with the harm being that consumers do not need to run out and consume the latest product because vendor A needs to start a new profit cycle. I just don't see how the user is harmed by being able to opt-in to an unlocked device. I'm trying to find the link. It was a great article I read the other day discussing the protentional problems including the after-market market. I was somethling like The Register's Open and Shut opinion pieces. Will post if I stumble across it again.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

They've already managed the first hurdle of getting the price down to where a student can afford it; about 25$ to manufacture though they apear to be doing a fund raising auction for non-education early adopters. Aong the lines of your point though, the original idea was to manufacture locally but they couldn't find a UK manufacturer that would/could produce them close to the target price point. However, the reason was not so much a matter of volume but the broken tax system in the UK where it was more expensive to import comonents and assemble them locally rather than import assembled product from a foriegn manufacturer. The political and corporate systems seem to go out of there way to punish anyone trying to improve the situation.

dcolbert
dcolbert

The article supports my claim about devices like these. They become niche devices for people with a very narrow interest - they're in limited supply, they're not mainstream, and so market demand makes a device that is supposed to be about $25 sell at auction for nearly $4000. For something that clearly has a lot less going on than an ARM 8 tablet that can run Android, iOS or Windows 8 and retails between $200 and $800 to mass-market consumers.

dcolbert
dcolbert

I think that you've got to read between the lines of what you've said above, but there are a lot of truths waiting between those lines.

dcolbert
dcolbert

Apple has pioneered establishing that it is possible to deliver products with sealed batteries that deliver such fantastic battery life that it isn't a huge concern that the battery is not user-serviceable. Other manufacturers, including ASUS, have taken their lead and delivered products like the ASUS Transformer tablets that do not have user accessible batteries - and they've delivered the same kind of reliability and longevity. The Samsung Galaxy Nexus and some recent Motorola handsets also are without user-accessible batteries. With Windows Phone, Microsoft isn't making the handsets - so it isn't really a question of if you trust Microsoft or not. It is a question of if you trust the handset manufacturer who is delivering a device that doesn't have a user-accessible battery. With a phone, most users are honestly planning on buying a new handset every two years anyhow - so battery matters even less there than it does with a tablet or personal media player where the end-user may have the idea that they're going to get 3 or 4 years or more of life out of their device. I bought my iPod classic 80GB 6 years ago, and it is still going strong, with the original battery. If you don't trust it anyhow, then you don't trust it anyhow. But I think the majority of users/owners have become adjusted to the idea of devices where the user can't replace the battery, and in this market, it just isn't the same kind of concern it was 5 or more years ago.

jkameleon
jkameleon

I'm living in Eastern Europe, and I've experienced the both sides of it. When our economy is in the dumpster, offshoring work comes here. As soon as our living standard improves a little, outsourceable jobs promptly go someplace else in their relentless search for the cheapest, crappiest place on Earth. Contrary to popular belief, offshoreable jobs isn't necessarily low end, entry level stuff. The main factor is the ease of specification. Hard to specify, interactive work is best kept in house, and vice versa. Probably the best example of high level, innovative, and offshoreable work is communication software development, modems and such. The specs for modem are very simple: Whatever goes in, must come out on the other end. In between, quite a bit of high math is required, a bit of physics, and a lot of machinocentric programming. When challenging, expensive work like this is offshored, cost savings can be substantial. > This all matters by degrees. It is true that if your shop runs Linux, you can take full responsibility from end-to-end in-house, if you want. Most of the managers want to put the blame out-house if at all possible. In many cases they couldn't take the responsibilty in-house even if they wanted to, because their own workforce (what's left of it) is more alieanated than folks in Bangalore, Kigali or Pyongyang. > It seems silly to me. To me, it's disquieting, to say the least. It resembles me of Ceaucescu's Romania, where special permit was required to own and operate a typewriter. People behind stuff like SOPA, ACTA, hardware locking, etc are everything but silly. They are very smart, and very competent at keeping their privileges and profits. In order to achieve this, they impose silly stuff on us.

LeMike
LeMike

You say "Do you want a device where you can open the back and get to the battery - or do you want an appliance device with such a good battery it probably doesn't matter if it is "user serviceable" or not? " The battery in this case always being better than you need? I'm sorry, but I just can't see that from Microsoft.

dcolbert
dcolbert

Your argument extrapolates to a reason to outsource. "Institutional use... ...always has to depend on someone to take care of the information". Let's break that down. What you're suggesting is a scale of outsourcing responsibility - but if the devices effectively outsource that responsibility to the corporation that makes the device - there really isn't any use in having employees on staff to support that equipment. And that is just like outsourcing your environments, platforms and applications. In both cases, individual or company, you lose the direct control of your... "stuff". Whatever that stuff must be. You're beholden to someone outside of your organization to support your platform. This is a key argument that a lot of Linux pundits use to claim Linux is superior to Windows. I deal with this daily, as some of our partners host their own platforms and our employees attach directly to those platforms to perform their jobs. The problem arises when there is some sort of issue with those platforms. My executive staff or the department managers responsible for the employees who leverage those systems call me, requesting that my team do something to fix the problem.. The problem is - I call our partner, and they've got their own policies, priorities, and sense of urgency in responding - and I can't really do a whole lot to affect that. It is worse when the external platform considers us a "customer" and not a partner. As a customer, I begin to slip into that area where I am just a call on the phone among many other customers, bigger and smaller. I might as well be calling Comcast or Verizon support. That absolutely happens with organizations that outsource their IT to companies. Additionally, it is pretty well established that this kind of outsourcing is MORE expensive over the long haul for most medium and large sized businesses. It is cheaper for them to have things in-house than to outsource them and pay for them as utilities/services. This all matters by degrees. It is true that if your shop runs Linux, you can take full responsibility from end-to-end in-house, if you want. Step up to NT technology, and you're still dependent on a big corporation to release patches, fixes and address issues that you may encounter - on their time-table, not yours. But there is still a lot of flexibility within that restricted framework on what you can do in-house, what you can take direct responsibility for in your own organization. In this case - though - if it is locked down and difficult to bypass those locks at the hardware level - you're completely beholden to the vendor and/or manufacturer to address issues and fix problems. This comes down to who is best served by what. I think that is Ed's original argument, really - that a Win 8 appliance type device that is locked down and hard to unlock benefits the customer - because there is no incentive to "try and fix it yourself". It is the basic idea of having a hardware device with custom or rare screws - or to otherwise be assembled in a manner that makes dis-assembly difficult. It really is a topic that is interrelated to that concept of hardware lock-down. Do you want a device where you can open the back and get to the battery - or do you want an appliance device with such a good battery it probably doesn't matter if it is "user serviceable" or not? My argument is that for the segment of the population that wants to do these things - those locks are simply inconveniences. I do some hardware hacking from time to time, and always have. Nothing is more irritating than needing to buy some special tool to get into some device. My first experience with this was probably having to buy a "Mac-Cracker" to open up a Mac Classic style PC in the early 90s. Since then I've bought tools to allow me to open up my Nintendo Gameboy Advance. More recently it was buying a tool-set to get into an iPod Classic to replace a battery or a putty knife from Lowes to get into a Mac Mini. Which is my root argument - a locked bootloader is something like DRM. It doesn't stop *anything*, really - it just makes it a hassle. DRM doesn't stop piracy. It just creates a lot of head-aches for legitimate users. DRM on blu-ray is why you're always downloading patches and why some disks will choke on some players. It makes the consumer experience less satisfying while making the manufacturers feel like they've done something to stop a problem that they're never going to stop, anyhow. At the very *best*, it is a cat-and-mouse game. You challenge the DIY community with a locked bootloader, they're going to figure out how to bypass it. You make it illegal, you're just making criminals out of people who are tinkering in their own equipment. It seems silly to me.