10.09.11

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With OEM Distortion, Microsoft Need Not Compete

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 11:31 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Policing the stores to ban competition

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Summary: New blog posts about Microsoft’s attempt to boot Linux out of existence by not letting it boot

SEVERAL times before we have written about the UEFI scam perpetrated by Microsoft, noting that Microsoft is trying yet again what it tried several times in the past. It wishes to make it illegal or impractical to run GNU/Linux, which is its #1 competitor. Earlier today we found some interesting blog posts on this subject, which is relevant to this Web site. Here are a couple:

  • Why I failed the Windows 8 Logo Program

    I discovered that one of the requirements to apply for the Windows 8 Logo Program, before I boot up, is to have secure boot enabled by default. I also must carry several sets of keys, all for the sake of prevention. According to MS, if I do not, some malicious thoughts could hijack the boot process and then I would be cast into a zombie state, controlled by some criminal or terrorist. Thus, I might end writing and sending millions of useless postcards…That’s scary, isn’t it?

    So, the basic idea of protection from criminals sounds appealing. Yet, I started asking some questions and found some problematic issues hidden below the surface of the venerable claim of security…

  • Microsoft: Make Linux-Proof Computers, or else

    All of this is to help Microsoft cope with two uncomfortable realities:

    1. After twenty years of trying, Microsoft still seems constitutionally incapable of writing secure software. Other operating systems run securely on standard PCs without any fuss, but Microsoft claims they need special hardware to do this. Perhaps this is because Microsoft has explicitly written many security flaws into their software. (Prediction: UEFI or no, Windows 8 will be compromised. Frequently.)

    2. After twenty years of market domination, Microsoft is starting to lose market share. Even with 95% of the desktop market, billions of dollars in the bank, and manufacturers salivating to do their bidding, users are turning away from Microsoft to safer, cheaper, more reliable alternatives, like Linux, Unix, or Mac. And Microsoft hasn’t been able to win them back with a better product…because they can’t make a better product.

We shall see if Microsoft backtracks and is forced to backtrack.

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9 Comments

  1. Michael said,

    October 9, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Gravatar

    You attack MS for not focusing on security.
    You attack MS for focusing on security.

    What a biased and foolish world view you have.

    XFaCE Reply:

    LOL. “Security”? Yeah, and I wire my jaw shut so I am “secure” from ingesting poison.

    http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2006/05/who_owns_your_c.html

    These kinds of secure boot systems are false security. It most certainly will not fix the majority of Windows security problems.

    Michael Reply:

    It is not designed to solve all problems. There is no magic bullet that will.

    But lovely straw man. Does he have a name? :)

    Will Reply:

    Ok, then. Please suggest your own solution that takes into account current OEM market reality (some might say distortion) and still enables customers to easily choose their own operating system.

    Michael Reply:

    What is stopping people from picking their own OS now?

    You can get a computer with Windows pre-installed… or OS X… or Ubuntu… or Trisquel… or Fedora… etc.

    Some of these choices are more common than others. Sure. There are no low end machines with OS X, even if I might want one. Oh well. And even if I want a computer with, say, Ubuntu, that does not mean *any* OEM is obligated to carry it for me.

    Why are so many who support “free” software so against a “free” market? Why are so many for their own “choice” so ready to rip “choice” from others and insist those others owe them computers with the OS *they* want and not the OS (or OSs) that the company thinks will serve them and their customers best?

    Jose_X Reply:

    “Free markets” are nonsense. If you want an anarchist paradise, the US is not and has never been your place to shop or produce.

    You can’t deny established software platforms can acquire a huge amount of lock-in as happened especially with the PC market leveraging a wide range of third party hardware and software. Just compare with eating pizza and then bread sticks from different vendors. The software platforms market is distorted. It is not a “free” market (even in the US sense) by any stretch of the imagination. And platforms are hardly cloned by any competitor to the degree to enable seamless access to customer existing data.

    We can also argue that closed software comes with externalities many consumers don’t realize until it is too late and such software should be taxed in order to try and create a more balanced competitive market place beneficial to society. The network effect is one example where vendors frequently face a large headwind in supporting low volume platforms.

    Again, we can contrast with many other areas of society. We’ll find these other areas either don’t much have this concept of lock-in or do but have established non-moving standards. Software is just too complex and easy to change on the fly by the “monopolist”.

    Jobs, with significant artistic insight and business skills, was hardly able to dent the PC market on motorola chips. When the Mac moved to intel, ample supporting hardware, and leveraged open source software, they only increased their share a few percentage points.

    Michael Reply:

    > “Free markets” are nonsense. If you want an anarchist
    > paradise, the US is not and has never been your place
    > to shop or produce.

    I do not believe in unfettered Capitalism, but I do believe in the basic ideas.

    > You can’t deny established software platforms can
    > acquire a huge amount of lock-in as happened
    > especially with the PC market leveraging a wide range
    > of third party hardware and software.

    Of course. It makes it hard for others to compete well – you are competing not just with a system but an ecosystem. OS X, iOS, Android and others have shown this can happen.

    > Just compare with eating pizza and then bread sticks
    > from different vendors. The software platforms market
    > is distorted. It is not a “free” market (even in the
    > US sense) by any stretch of the imagination. And
    > platforms are hardly cloned by any competitor to the
    > degree to enable seamless access to customer existing
    > data.

    Again: no doubt – it is hard to create a new ecosystem. Heck, can you imagine trying to create a brand new networking system to compete with the massive ecosystem we know as the Internet? I cannot imagine how one would even start. But that does not mean I think the government should come in and cripple the Internet to give other ideas a “fair chance”.

    > We can also argue that closed software comes with
    > externalities many consumers don’t realize until it
    > is too late and such software should be taxed in
    > order to try and create a more balanced competitive
    > market place beneficial to society. The network
    > effect is one example where vendors frequently face a
    > large headwind in supporting low volume platforms.

    I would disagree with an Internet tax to help create competitors to it. I would also not want to see Android devices taxed to help get MS into the market, even if MS is having a large amount of problem getting there on its own. For the same reason I do not want Windows and OS X machines taxed to help Linux or BSD or any other competitor.

    > Again, we can contrast with many other areas of
    > society. We’ll find these other areas either don’t
    > much have this concept of lock-in or do but have
    > established non-moving standards. Software is just
    > too complex and easy to change on the fly by the
    > “monopolist”.

    Easy to change? Change it too much and you toss out the advantage of your ecosystem. Many complained when Apple did this with the original Mac (tossing the Apple II ecosystem) and again when they did it with OS X (largely tossing out the Classic Mac ecosystem – and now Rosetta is even gone).

    > Jobs, with significant artistic insight and business
    > skills, was hardly able to dent the PC market on
    > motorola chips. When the Mac moved to intel, ample
    > supporting hardware, and leveraged open source
    > software, they only increased their share a few
    > percentage points.

    If Apple wants to increase it market share they would have to earn it. They never have. They do not join the race to the bottom and sell tons of low end machines of questionable quality and low margins. Apple, by choice, sells higher end machines with prices to match (comparable to other high end machines). In that market (or sub-market) Apple does very, very well (I have seen reports where they have over 90% market share in that price range). Of course, if they joined the race to the bottom, they would lose much of that share at the top.

    But all of this is far off the topic of whining that *one* thing done to boost security is not solving all security problems. I just find that to be a bizarre and silly claim.

    Jose_X Reply:

    Off topic or not, I wanted to address a couple of things from your reply.

    >> But that does not mean I think the government should come in and cripple the Internet to give other ideas a “fair chance”.

    The Internet is not owned by anyone. Yes, I would want it to be “crippled” taxed restricted.. whatever if it was owned by one person.

    Windows platform is owned by one entity. The Internet is not.

    >> Change it too much and you toss out the advantage of your ecosystem.

    I am talking about changes that break interoperability of competitors. Eg, if Windows would crash openoffice a little too frequently (eg, give it a less than ideal system call pointer). There are many many ways.. in fact, just evolving software creates “bugs” naturally. Your firm has inside access to these bugs, but competitors have a long reverse engineering task ahead of them to try and keep up.

    Michael Reply:

    > Off topic or not, I wanted to address a couple of
    > things from your reply.

    OK.

    >> But that does not mean I think the government should
    >> come in and cripple the Internet to give other ideas
    >> a “fair chance”.
    >
    > The Internet is not owned by anyone. Yes, I would
    > want it to be “crippled” taxed restricted.. whatever
    > if it was owned by one person.
    >
    > Windows platform is owned by one entity. The Internet
    > is not.

    This is not in contention. But PCs are not made by any one entity, either. Anyone can make one – look at all of the small white box makers.

    Even with MS there is competition: and in many areas where MS competes they do not do so all that well. Even in the server room they are hardly a monopoly. The only place they have anything approaching a monopoly is the desktop, and with Apple having over 10% of the home market (in the US), that can hardly be said to be even an “effective monopoly” any more. Sure, they have the lion’s share of the desktop market – but for most of the market (the low end, where most sales are) they have no effective competition. OS X is not available in that segment of the market and no desktop Linux distro offers a truly competitive experience for most users (and even if one did, the desktop Linux market is so fragmented it is competing against itself more than against MS).

    Desktop Linux is getting better. And someday, I hope, it will earn a place in that market – but it has yet to do so. This is not the fault of MS. Heck, if the open source community would find a way to present itself to the market in a more unified and coherent way it would likely earn a lot of users even as it is now – but that is not the nature of the open source world. And with people associating open source with the likes of Stallman, this hurts the cause even more.

    Do not get me wrong: tying a cute message and a pretty face to open source would not suddenly make it become truly competitive, but it would bring interest, users and – with that – improvements.

    >> Change it too much and you toss out the advantage of
    >> your ecosystem.
    >
    > I am talking about changes that break
    > interoperability of competitors. Eg, if Windows would
    > crash openoffice a little too frequently (eg, give it
    > a less than ideal system call pointer). There are
    > many many ways.. in fact, just evolving software
    > creates “bugs” naturally. Your firm has inside access
    > to these bugs, but competitors have a long reverse
    > engineering task ahead of them to try and keep up.

    Sure: Apple has an advantage with Safari on the Mac… but Firefox and Chrome do well. MS has some advantages with MS Office on Windows – but Apple has the advantage with iWork on the Mac. So be it. Both Apple and MS, however, benefit from having an easy to develop on OS… so they have incentive to not cripple others as a whole. If they are found doing so, however, their should be consequences to that. No doubt.

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