Windows 8 on ARM Getting a UEFI OS Lockdown?

Not too long ago we laid to rest the whole conspiracy idea that Microsoft was locking out PCs with Windows 8.

What this meant was that alternative OS options like Linux couldn’t install thanks to new technology and would give Microsoft a full monopoly over PC hardware.

Microsoft adamantly denied any claims that this lockout for the PC was happening, so why are the Linux folks and other IT types up in arms again? It seems Microsoft was only telling half-truths with their previous denial.

Recently, Journalist Glyn Moody dug around and discovered that Microsoft clearly spelled out in special documentation that “Disabling Secure Boot must not be possible on ARM systems”.

So what does this mean? It basically means that Microsoft is locking out ARM using UEFI (unified extensible firmware interface).

For those that don’t know, UEFI is basically a modern-day replacement to the aging BIOS chip.

Essentially, this means that if you buy a Windows 8 ARM tablet you get Windows 8. No Linux or Android custom installs down the road.

You are locked into Microsoft’s OS (though I assume Windows 9 upgrades would be possible with UEFI, though).

So the bigger picture is that Windows 8 ARM tablets can’t be ‘rooted’ like many Android devices that allow custom ROMs installed.

Is this the crime of the century from Microsoft? In my honest opinion, not at all. Sure, the idea of having custom ROMs on Android is pretty cool, but odds are if you are spending the extra $$$ on a Windows 8 tablet it is to get Windows 8 and the support of Windows.

Otherwise you’d go with an Android alternative. Additionally, keep in mind that if you still want the ability to install alternative operating systems like Linux you can just get an x86 tablet (which should have the flexibility to install other operating systems still).

There are many of us out there that like messing around with our hardware, and so this may not sound like great news, but it could be a heck of a lot bigger of a deal.

I won’t lose any sleep over an ARM lock-down, but if x86 tablets and PCs got this same lockdown treatment? If it was the PC, yes I’d be angry. X86 Tablets, I’d probably be a little annoyed.

This is just further fuel for the anti-Microsoft fires that are burning bright out there, as of late.

Will it still be possible for hackers to find a way to break UEFI and work around this issue? From what we’ve seen so far, UEFI is an impossibly tough cookie to work-around.

Still, something I’ve learned in the IT business is that if there is a will, there certainly is a way.

For now though, my best advice is that if you like customization either stick with x86 or go with an ARM tablet that runs on Android.

Also keep in mind, they aren’t the only companies that have ever done something like this, for example the newest Nook Tablet has a similar lock-down technology that is keeping custom-ROMs from reaching it.

My question to the readers is this: Do you think that Windows 8’s ARM lock-down is a major deal-breaker or just a minor inconvenience? Are you considering a Windows 8 tablet at all? Share your thoughts below.

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Please Leave Your Comments Below...

  • zulbia_bamie

    I will kill for a windows 8 tablet( just kidding! )
    arm or x86? I’m not sure which I will go with. I think it’s highly depends on Intel and their new CPUs, if they come up with something decent and efficient , I definitely will buy a x86. so the UEFI will not cause any problem in this case.
    windows on arm is another story, we don’t know enough about it yet. if they bring something nearly as good as x86 it wont be a problem because most people who will buy the arm version don’t know any thing about custom roms or hacking.
    windows itself seems to be enough for majority of users, no need for any custom roms or other OSs, geeks can go with x86.
    BTW, UEFI has a lot of benefits (security, speed ,…) so I think it worth it.

  • Penta2100

    well Microsoft is just trying to do there best to keep out hackers and such. I think its just a minor inconvineice.

  • Guestwhohasnoemailtoshare

    It’s a big inconvenience and takes away freedoms of the users.

  • WhatIsTheBigDeal

    urrently I do not see what is the big deal. If the argument is that Microsoft is evil due to a broken promise but my argument is that on the x86 platform yes would be a big deal because Windows is a monopoly on that platform.

    On the ARM platform, Linux is the monopoly. There is no Windows running on ARM at all (WinCE does not count and you don’t see them anywhere). Go into any electronic shop that sells ARM tablets, there are only Apple and Android, no Windows. Samsung, Motorola, Acer and other ARM tablet manufacturers are all Android.

    Now even if anyone of these manufacturers will make a Windows ARM tablet, it will definitely be limited to maybe to Qualcomm and Tegra platforms.

    When someone does indeed buy one of these ARM tablet with Windows, they would do so because they want a Windows ARM tablet and not because they want to install Linux when are millions of Android tablet out there, with way better hardware platform than the one that Windows will be limited to, for anyone to choose from who wants Linux on an ARM tablet.

    Industrial design wise, may not be so different between a Windows and Android tablet from the same manufacturer because of cost and how many ways can you actually design a tablets ID anyway, most of them will look like another. Beside, what Linux user would want a big Windows button on their tablet, sheesh!

    On the ARM platform side, Linux user are not starved of having tablet that they can buy unlike on the x86 platform, since Linux does indeed have the monopoly on ARM tablets and Linux ARM tablets will have way better hardware platform ( processor, graphics ) than Windows ARM because Microsoft will have a limited set of platform to support when launched, just like Windows Phone.

    So on x86 platform, this will be a big deal having a lock UEFI because there not that many to nothing at all of a Linux tablet but on the ARM platform there are already broad and million of choices for any Linux users to choose from compared to a Windows user.

  • Fred

    I think you are missing the point. It’s not ARM based tablets it’s ARM “systems”. More and more manufacturers are contemplating using multi core ARM chips in “traditional” PCs and servers. You say “If it was the PC, yes I’d be angry” but you seem to have forgotten what PC stands for. It does NOT stand for WinTel, it stands for Personal Computer. In one foul sweep M$ will be able to do what they have always wanted to do, own the computing world. When M$ was shackled by anti-trust findings they wouldn’t have gone down this route. Before that time the PC world had stagnated, during that time the PC world was starting to diversify and innovate, now that time has gone it will be stagnation as usual while the incumbents make bucket loads while we all get stuck with the same old crap.

  • jerry

    Microsoft is monopolizing computers with uefi chips, you should be able to put what ever os you want on a computer. the government should straighten them out again.
    Seems like they didn’t learn their lesson the last time…..