Anti-competition Complaint Against M$ Over “Secure Boot”

Perhaps better late than never, a GNU/Linux organization has laid a complaint against M$ for “secure boot” which does little for security but a lot to stifle competition.

“A Spanish association representing open-source software users has filed a complaint against Microsoft Corp to the European Commission, in a new challenge to the Windows developer following a hefty fine earlier this month.”
see Exclusive: Linux users file EU complaint against Microsoft | Reuters

You can read the complaint in Spanish, “EL ARRANQUE CAUTIVO DE MICROSOFT CONTRARIO A LA COMPETENCIA Y A LOS DERECHOS DE LOS CONSUMIDORES”

I hope this succeeds in slapping M$ harder than ever. This shenanigan has already contaminated months of world-production of PCs since mid-2012. It’s hard to see any way to undo that harm. What’s the resale value of a PC which cannot boot another OS? What’s the value of a couple of hundred million PCs? M$ cannot even afford to pay the bill. Of course this challenge is EU-only but it will set a resounding precedent. Whatever country wants its pound of flesh will have to act quickly…

I hope the EU orders restitution to damaged computer-buyers and a 10% of revenue fine or whatever their maximum is. With a serial psychopath like M$ there is no use being gentle with them. This will be the third case of anti-competitive activity in a decade. I think M$ should be banned from doing business in any country that values a free market in PC operating systems and everything else in IT.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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20 Responses to Anti-competition Complaint Against M$ Over “Secure Boot”

  1. ram says:

    The problem here has long been the same. “Third-line forcing” has been illegal in almost all English speaking countries for a long time, and for good reasons. Unfortunately, those laws have never been enforced in the case of certain very large, very unethical, and yes criminal, organizations. This is just another example.

  2. oiaohm says:

    bw
    –Windows 8 requires it for its logo certification, but Windows 8 installs just fine on older PCs without UDFI. Again, that is an OEM choice.–

    Yes you might be able to make machines without Windows Logo Certification. But this leads you to a problem. Those who sell all Windows Certified machines no non Windows Certified windows machines get access to Microsoft Advertising budget.

    This is the carrot and stick method. So those that do Logo Certification can sell there machines slightly cheaper than those who don’t.

    bw is how is OEM going to remain compensative against other OEMs if they don’t do what Microsoft wants.

    bw what you are describing that OEM could is a false choice. OEM can only take an option if it equals them remaining competitive.

    HP at the LCA2013 was trying to cool the Linux guys off to accept Microsoft as the Signing authority for boot-loaders.

    The OEM don’t want multi Authority keys on board. The OEM don’t want to have to pay for the certification process either. When Microsoft offered to do it for free they jumped at it.

    The problem is the conflict of interest. That conflict of interest worries people like me.

    Please be aware that Microsoft boot-loader for Windows 8 does not use the same signing key as the third parties. So Microsoft can revoke 1 key take everyone out bar them.

    So the setup is conflict of interest. The Microsoft boot-loader may or may not pass threw the same level of quality control.

    bw the problem here is a Fox has been put in charge of the hen house instead of a farmer.

    A security firm that does not make OS’s should have been put in charge of the UEFI bootloader signing. Microsoft should have been required to submit there boot-loader to that like everyone else. Problem is that the OEM board makers would have to agree to chip so much money for the security firms to be interested.

    bw a lot are entering the Chromebook game and Android Game. Some of those are Intel.

    Main reason for entering those games is not to be accused of this.
    http://www.infoworld.com/d/microsoft-windows/microsoft-lenovo-promote-genuine-windows-pcs-215305

    Chromebooks and Android devices you cannot install Windows even if they are what you call Lintel. So Microsoft cannot accuse OEM of shipping those to be converted by piracy.

    Without entering using something that cannot run Windows OEM result in being attacked for providing machines to have pirate install of Windows. Producing something that will no run windows end up with risk of higher cost because not producing enough volume.

    With the Linux guys nature to pave over Windows. Higher cost end up with them not buying the Linux version at times.

    bw Microsoft piracy enforcement is working perfectly to block Linux getting a retail foothold.

  3. George Wilson says:

    I have to respectfully disagree and say that this complaint is a joke.

    1. If you, if only fleetingly, have sometimes watched the Oscars, then you know that directors, actors and actresses etc. will often enough get awarded for the wrong films. This is the same. If the EU decided to do something, it’d be for all the wrong reasons, just as the slap on the wrist following “Browserchoicegate” was a light punishment for all the wrong reasons. Because neither “Browserchoicegate” nor the “Secure Boot” complaint address the very real systemic issue: prolonged bundling of hardware and software. Without this the other issues wouldn’t exist.

    2. The complaint is also a joke because once again our precious Linux community has failed to present a unified front. Almost all big Linux distributions have taken care of Secure Boot by technical means and therefore acknowledged it de facto.

    3. Linux companies which worked on UEFI together with Microsoft did nothing in the way of mobilizing public support against Secure Boot.

    Let me repeat it: the real systemic issue is the bundling of hardware and software. That’s what must be fought. I sometimes doubt that many of our community’s technical “leaders” understand that. Secure Boot and other things are only symptoms of a disease.

  4. bw says:

    “only enough to keep the business afloat”

    Which is how Michael Dell made his billions? Some float.

    I certainly agree that the OEMs are basically stuck with Microsoft. After all they are in the “Wintel” business. They can enter the “Lintel” business anytime they feel like it. You are probably correct in thinking that they would not choose to do that until retailers welcome them on the shelves. What do you suppose will make that happen?

    Everyone involved, retailers, OEMs, and customers, too, have to feel that they can gain some advantage by changing this fundamental characteristic of the business.

  5. bw wrote, “OEMs follow Microsoft around because they have been making scads of money doing that for the past 30 years.”

    Nope. Margins are tiny on the hardware business, thanks to M$ giving OEMs only enough to keep the business afloat. If OEMs switched to FLOSS their margins would jump but they can’t do that because the channels are full of that other OS, nothing more. If all OEMs switched tomorrow they would be better off but none of them have enough margin to afford the transition. They are locked in. If they give up the revenue stream from consumers buying M$’s licences they would be losing money. They won’t do that until retailers welcome GNU/Linux on retail shelves.

  6. lpbbear says:

    “But you cannot blame the existing businesses for just continuing to do what has proven successful for them in the past. That is how change occurs, I believe. The old businesses give way to new businesses that explore new avenues.”

    That is NOT what is happening here and you know it.

    This is a clear attempt by Microsoft to redefine the PC from a previously open platform to a Windows only platform and is a clear manipulation of the UEFI standard to use it as a method to do that. Yes, they have purposely left a few “loopholes” in this lockin attempt, but those were, in my opinion, purposely left in as a way to excuse themselves from an blatantly obvious antitrust issue. I’m not buying it.

    If anything this is an old business attempting to use a current technology to block potential new business competitors. Clear antitrust.

  7. bw says:

    “It is forcing on the entire industry ”

    How can that be? The only “force” involved is the basic greed of the suppliers to not miss out on the next big thing. OEMs follow Microsoft around because they have been making scads of money doing that for the past 30 years. They may know no other way and the people who make scads of money in the next decade may very well be those who take your stand and invest in it.

    But you cannot blame the existing businesses for just continuing to do what has proven successful for them in the past. That is how change occurs, I believe. The old businesses give way to new businesses that explore new avenues. It is not reasonable to think that new businesses become as massive as Dell or HP or Microsoft overnight. It takes time and it takes people investing in new ideas.

  8. bw, apologizing for M$ once again, wrote, “It is offering something that makes your product more appealing than that from the other guy.”

    No it isn’t. It is forcing on the entire industry something no one wants. It is controlling the production of others.

    bw wrote, “Let the people who want it buy it from vendors who wish to supply it.”

    That’s part of what is happening with “8”. Folks aren’t buying it. Who suffers? Not M$ for now. They just raise licensing fees. The OEMs and retailers with unsold stocks suffer. The consumers that did buy suffer because they cannot sell the junk they bought. Who will compensate them for the accelerated depreciation?

  9. bw says:

    “UEFI is an antitrust issue and that is where the primary focus should be.”

    Every effort by any vendor, even Microsoft, to enhance their business position is not necessarily anti-trust. It is what competition is all about. It is offering something that makes your product more appealing than that from the other guy. I don’t see where there is anything at all wrong with this.

    The Linux users have been sneering for decades at Microsoft’s alleged lack of security and its vulnerability to hacking. Secure Boot is a valid effort to remove some of the exposure to hacking of Windows OS and it is structured as a free choice for OEMs to offer it and for users to take advantage of it. Windows 8 will work just fine on computers that do not had the Secure Boot feature, I am using one right now.

    “The ability of the end-user to disable it is proof of that. ”

    A user can just turn off antivirus or even uninstall it, too. That is not proof of antivirus not being about security.

    What’s all the fuss anyway? Haven’t you been saying far and wide that Microsoft cannot control IT anymore? Let the people who want it buy it from vendors who wish to supply it. What happened to free choice?

  10. bw wrote, “It (“secure boot”) is just a good idea that helps combat hacking and no one with any sense can be against that.”

    “Secure Boot” is not about security. The Linux key is proof of that. The ability of the end-user to disable it is proof of that. “Secure boot” is about M$’s ability to “take value” from their “IP” by punishing anyone in IT not using M$’s OS. What is going to happen when M$ decides to revoke the Linux key? What is going to happen when malware artists get a hold of the Linux key? What is going to happen with M$’s next hiccough regarding issuing Linux keys? Why is M$ even involved in issuing keys for the infrastructure of the world?

  11. lpbbear says:

    Despite all the “pretty words” you’ll read about UEFI from people in the Microsoft camp the fact is this is designed by Microsoft to gradually transition the “PC” from an hardware that was formerly used by all operating systems to a Windows only PC. This is not just a Linux issue, its a BSD, a QNX, a Amiga and any other x86 operating system you can think of issue.

    Yes, if you hunt hard enough, you can find a way to turn it off…..for now. And yes you can get signing keys from…… Microsoft….for now. The direction UEFI is being taken by Microsoft is clearly an attempt to block or hamper competitive technologies to theirs. And yes….it IS an antitrust issue.

    As soon as this Spanish Linux user groups antitrust action was announced Matthew Garret began typing and posting as fast as he can all over the Internet with all of his sorry excuses for UEFI and why we should all just shut our mouths and get with the program as he defines it. While I agree that the Linux community should be looking for a technological solution we should also be exploring legal avenues. Not one without the other. This IS an antitrust issue no matter what Garret thinks. In my opinion Garret is doing more damage to Linux with his “opinions” than very few before him have other than Microsoft itself. I personally would add him to a list that includes Miguel de Icaza of people who have gone out of their way to damage Linux by their insistence on using technologies controlled by Microsoft and their constant proclamations that its “good for Linux” and their constant put downs of anyone that disagrees with their supposedly “expert” opinion.

    UEFI is an antitrust issue and that is where the primary focus should be.

  12. bw says:

    As I understand it, an OEM is free to set an option to ignore the key and so allow older OS use. Windows 8 requires it for its logo certification, but Windows 8 installs just fine on older PCs without UDFI. Again, that is an OEM choice.

    Linux suppliers, I understand, are supplying versions that take advantage of the UDFI features as well.

    I don’t think that you can find any fault directly with Microsoft here. Nor will the EU. It is just a good idea that helps combat hacking and no one with any sense can be against that.

  13. oiaohm wrote, “it might not be a slam dunk but its not Microsoft 100 percent in the clear either.”

    Exactly. EU had only M$’s side of the story up until now. I hope every OEM, system builder, retailer, developer and user piles on. It’s one thing for a business to posit a new platform. It’s quite another when that platform is designed to exclude competitive products. The thing about the end user being able to disable it completely misses the points that the consumer paid for something he will not use and that most consumers are not into tweaking. The consumer will likely hire someone to install competitive software and the cost will be higher with “secure boot”. What business will want to supply the service of installing GNU/Linux if the process can hang due to some key controlled by M$? “secure boot” is all cost and no benefit in most situations.

  14. oiaohm says:

    bw it might not be a slam dunk but its not Microsoft 100 percent in the clear either.

    It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

  15. Mats Hagglund says:

    Besides its almost impossible to install Linux to Windows ARM-device (Windows RT) while Google seems not locking its ChromeBook:

    http://techfoobar.blogspot.fi/2013/01/how-to-install-ubuntu-on-samsungs-new.html

  16. bw says:

    “…in written comments dated March 4 to a query from an European Parliamentary lawmaker, Almunia said his administration was aware of the Microsoft Windows 8 security requirements.

    “The Commission is monitoring the implementation of the Microsoft Windows 8 security requirements. The Commission is however currently not in possession of evidence suggesting that the Windows 8 security requirements would result in practices in violation of EU competition rules,” he said in the letter posted on the website of the European Parliament.”

    Not a slam dunk at all.

  17. oiaohm says:

    Mats Hagglund complex issue. Microsoft UEFI requirements for Windows 8 forbid third party signing keys being in the system. This is an valid anti-trust issue.

    There is a second issue of hardware makers not taken on the role of certifying what boot-loaders work and giving that responsibility to Microsoft so bias choosing one party in the OS game.

    Yes there could be anti-trust over that as well. Really OS bootloader certifying should have went to someone like converity who has no particular interesting in OS production but are a program quality certifier.

    Microsoft should be required to submit there boot loader for inspection like everyone else they are competing against.

    Linux boots on a lot of things that it is adverse or non ideal conditions. Non ideal is having a signing key to a different OS in the firmware with no simple way to replace.

    Mats Hagglund yes the Linux world has said to the EFI group a few times what they think is suitable has a few anti-trust issues.

  18. Mats Hagglund says:

    “Still, within the next few months, booting and installing Linux on Intel-based Windows 8 PCs will once more be a matter as simple as putting a Linux CD or USB stick in a PC and re-booting the system. ”

    http://www.zdnet.com/linux-developers-working-on-uniting-windows-8-secure-boot-fixes-7000011094/

    So is Steven J.Vaughan-Nicholls writing nonsense or is installing Linux to UEFI Secure Boot computer really be near in future as easy as it’s to non-UEFI pc?

  19. Well, those buyers should be sending the bill for enhanced depreciation to M$. I think M$ owes the world for half a year’s defective PC-production, about 180 million PCs X $400 = $72billion, about a year of their revenue. I would expect this case to take a few months in EU and a few years throughout the world in which time, M$ would be bankrupted by its own greed.

  20. ram says:

    In Australia those useless Microsoft 8 PC’s are being offered at retail for half their raw parts cost. They are going to be filling up our landfills soon.

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