Will Windows 8 Lock Out Pirates and Linux?

Microsoft explains UEFI secure boot, but leaves big questions unanswered.

Earlier this week members of the tech community voiced concerns over Microsoft's UEFI spec, which would in theory make Windows 8 PCs more secure, but could also prevent Linux from booting off the machines. Yesterday Microsoft responded via a post written by Tony Mangefeste of the Ecosystem team.

Tech journalist Joe Brockmeier responds to Microsoft's “non-response,” saying, “The issue at hand is this: Will users and businesses have control over their PCs? The answer is a firm sort of if OEMs choose to support it.” Brockmeier notes that Windows 8 users might have control over their PCs if OEMs turn off the secure boot feature, but it's still not clear whether other operating systems, such as Linux, could be added to secure boot at all. He points out that waiting for the market to sort out this situation is a flawed solution because it assumes that consumers will be aware of the secure boot issue and know to shop for systems without it, and it also might not be obvious whether a system with secure boot even has the ability to disable it. He also notes that after-market PCs would create a new round of issues if their new owners decide to install a different operating system.

Brockmeier emphasizes that although the situation has been cast as a “Linux versus Windows” issue, the problem really extends to anyone who wants to add any new operating system, swap graphics cards, install a new network card, or perhaps even upgrade to newer versions of Windows down the line. He says he doesn't think Microsoft is being “anti-Linux.” Rather, Brockmeier assumes that controlling unauthorized, pirated versions of Windows while also appearing to be more secure helped inspire this new feature. Regardless of Microsoft's motives behind the UEFI spec, they'll need to answer consumer concerns. Reassuring us that they are protecting the pre-OS environment with UEFI just won't cut it.

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