Summary: Latest anticompetitive practices and lies from Microsoft, as well as preparation for complaint to antitrust authorities
THE GNU/Linux desktop is under attack again. In this last week of September we have been seeing new aggressive behaviour from Microsoft, which helps remind us why Microsoft just cannot be ignored (its apologists and spinners cannot be ignored, either).
Later this year we are going to dive deeper into Cablegate and provide a more comprehensive summary of Microsoft and Apple actions against Linux and open source. In USENET, Rex Ballard writes: “Microsoft’s primary tactic is to threaten and ultimatum that if the organization does not preinstall Windows on every machine, or at least buy licenses for every machine, then any machine that has Windows installed on a machine that wasn’t shipped with Windows when it was manufactured, and wasn’t licensed for Windows Professional by the organization – will be charged a license fee at full MSRP rather than the discounted OEM and/or corporate license price. Since the MSRP is around $400 for Windows 7 professional with $400 for Office Professional, and the OEM price is about $30 and Corporate license is around $50 per year, with MS-Office corporate licenses going for around $150, the risk of getting ding’d for $800 to $1000 or the pirated copies on 10% of their PCs is greater than the cost of buying the deeply discounted licenses for all of their Intel and AMD based PCs.
“We all need to learn from history because some people fall for the whole spin of “feature”, which Microsoft knowingly used only as an excuse to block competitors.”“Corporations have countered by extending the refresh rates from every 2 years to every 5 years, while offering support programs for those who want to get an Android or iPAD tablet.”
To make matters worse, Microsoft takes a lesson from Apple and plays with the boot sequence to TiVoise PCs. Michael Reed from Linux Journal writes about this politely, but there is nothing to be gentle about. We all need to learn from history because some people fall for the whole spin of “feature”, which Microsoft knowingly used only as an excuse to block competitors. Here is an example of useful idiocy and a response to it. The problem is that younger people (like Jeff in this case) don’t understand the subject’s history and there are rebuttals that say: “Jeff Hoogland tries to make the point that M$’s “secure boot” protocol is only a problem if OEMs do not give Linux the key…”
Yes, that is another flaw in the argument. Microsoft has enough apologists in its own camp, it really doesn’t deserve any confused ones like Jeff. The “feature” talking points was used before, as antitrust exhibits helped show. Every time this happens it’s a feature for Microsoft, not the user. It’s technical sabotage disguised as goodwill (to keep regulars at bay). Giving exposure to Microsoft spin is not worthwhile for the same reason that freedom of speech if not the right to an audience. Microsoft has been talking nonsense as “damage control” and there is already evidence to suggest legal action. To list and quote some recent articles:
Plans to enable a secure boot on Windows 8 machines have drawn the ire of Linux Australia’s membership, and have the Linux Australia Council itself considering a campaign against Microsoft.
Last week, in response to the brouhaha over its reported effort to implement a specification called Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) that could make it impossible to run Linux on Windows 8 PCs, Microsoft officials responded with an extensive post that explains exactly what kinds of flexibility UEFI will offer. After I read the post, I concluded that Microsoft is unlikely to pursue any systematic strategy for excluding Linux, but not everyone agreed with me. Now, the Linux community in Australia is letting its concerns be known.
As reported here yesterday, the Linux community in Australia is increasingly unhappy with Microsoft’s effort to implement a specification called Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) that some contend could make it impossible to run Linux on Windows 8 PCs. In response to complaints about the brouhaha, Microsoft officials responded with an extensive post that explains exactly what kinds of flexibility UEFI will offer. Many OStatic readers find the post from Microsoft to reach dubious conclusions, and now Linux Australia members are officially petitioning regulators, with reports coming in that they may have a case.
Those and many related questions have been voiced repeatedly in the blogosphere over the past week or so, even as Linux Australia reportedly announced it’s considering petitioning the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) with a claim that Microsoft’s behavior is anti-competitive.
This is M$’s “wet dream”. Bill can finally realize 100% monopoly if M$ can get OEMs to produce such hardware and no other.
Would it be legal? No. Could M$ get away with it? Only if governments do nothing. This is the tip of a global conspiracy to bundle hardware and software to the detriment of FLOSS and other competitors of M$.
An expected feature in the upcoming Windows 8 operating system has some Linux gurus worried. A secure boot will prevent any executable from loading unless it is signed by a Microsoft key. So, according to Red Hat engineer Matthew Garrett, an unsigned executable, such as Linux, would be blocked. This is a serious concern, since many Linux users are now running the OS on machines that originally came preloaded with an earlier version of Windows. In his blog, Garrett says that an obvious solution would be to provide signed copies of Linux, but he sees problems with that approach.
Linux Australia is fit to be tied over recent reports that Microsoft is requiring Windows 8 certified machines to support UEFI secure booting, a situation that could most likely hamper or block Linux booting on such machines.
Indeed, Linux Australia is so ticked off, they plan to file a formal anti-competitive complaint against Microsoft with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
Unfortunately, all I can say is, good luck with that.
I am unfamiliar with the burden of proof the ACCC holds for such complaints, but I’m pretty sure Microsoft will be able to get itself off the hook for this one. Why? Because nothing in the language they have used to describe the UEFI secure boot process or the need for this process mentions other operating systems in any way. The case Microsoft has carefully and consistently made is that secure booting is good for Windows because it shuts down one more avenue of malware.
So basically, Microsoft is saying that ability to stop UEFI secure boot lies in the hands of the hardware manufacturer. If the UEFI feature is not disabled, other OS cannot run on the computer.
A senior Red Hat engineer has lashed back at Microsoft’s attempt to downplay concerns that upcoming secure boot features will make it impossible to install Linux on Windows 8 certified systems.
Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) specifications are designed to offer faster boot times and improved security over current BIOS ROM systems. The secure boot feature of the specification is designed so that only digitally signed OS loaders will load, a security feature that would prevent the installation of generic copies of Linux or FreeBSD as well as preventing rootkits and other boot-time malware from running.
A digitally signed build of Linux would work, but that would mean persuading OEMs to include the keys. Disabling the feature would allow unsigned code to run. However, it is unclear how many OEMs and firmware vendors will follow this route, which isn’t required for Windows 8 certification.
As Sam Varghese puts it, “GNU/Linux users [are] given false hope over Windows 8 issue” because “Garrett pointed out later that the company had said nothing to remove the fears that users of other operating systems, including GNU/Linux, may have: that if they buy a Windows 8 certified PC when it does come out, they will only be able to run Windows 8 – and that too a specific copy of that operating system – on it.”
Is anyone surprised by this at all? Going back to the older point about OEMs, The Register says that “Microsoft has pushed its OEM software franchise out to tender among new and existing distributors amid a consumer market meltdown.”
Microsoft wants some new lock-in and to this publication it has said that “distributors have been informed of the OEM review and a Request For Proposal (RFP) had been sent out.” (quoting The Register, not Microsoft)
Microsoft is planning to make TiVoisation a standard in the OEM channel as means of blocking competition, or so it would seem. A poster from USENET remarked on it as follows: “it’s a good sign. It means OEMs are finally waking up to the possibility it might actually be more profitable to dump Microsoft, and try something more appealing to consumers, especially WRT price.
“With any luck this may also persuade them to keep their options open in the UEFI BIOS too.”
“Microsoft will not go away without fighting hard and causing a lot of damage, probably breaking laws in the process.”According to this same poster, “Softies walk out of Ballmer meeting in disgust.’ He quotes a post that says “Microsoft’s Ballmer faces mutiny… Employees angry and frustrated [...] The Seattle PI has cast its magnifying glass over the comments on a Microsoft blog post. It says at a recent company meeting, Ballmer was faced with a crowd suffering from restless bum syndrome, who deseated themselves and promptly exited mid-talk.” (source: TechEye)
We are actually seeing this validated in the blog of a Microsoft employee who writes: “As for people leaving (as some of the tech bloggers have picked up): yeah, people were streaming out. In small numbers. No where near as bad as BillG’s last company meeting where Ballmer started screaming at people to sit down. And, well, yes, I was one of those folks who wandered to the upper portion of the seats while Mr. Ballmer passed on his coachie wisdom from Friday Night Lights (BTW, I prefer coach John Wooden). I suppose if Microsoft had been serving beer and snacks after the meeting I would have managed to stay in my seat.” [via]
To quote Pogson’s remark on it: “It’s interesting that while Apple is on the radar of the author, the steam-roller overtaking Apple, Android/Linux on diverse smart thingies, is not. Picture, in your mind, a pedestrian on the sidewalk trying to dodge an out-of-control fuel tanker.”
Microsoft will not go away without fighting hard and causing a lot of damage, probably breaking laws in the process. Those who act like gentlemen in the face of Microsoft will get slapped on both cheeks. █