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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