Our way or the highway: Microsoft’s lockdown on ARM devices

March 12, 2012
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Do you enjoy dual or even triple booting your computer devices? Fancy having more than a single OS on your mobile phone? Well, you might have to give up on any dreams of using multiple operating systems on any ARM-based device that is shipping with Windows 8 as its default operating system.

According to a report by XDA Developers, Microsoft introduced a clause in the Windows 8 Hardware Certification Requirements that specifically forbids the enabling of  custom mode in the ARM’s UEFI boot. The certification states that “on an ARM system, it is forbidden to enable Custom Mode. Only Standard Mode may be enable. Disabling Secure [Boot] MUST NOT be possible on ARM systems.”

The above statement basically means that  you can forget about using any custom boot, which is used to enable alternatives signatures, which, in turn, are used to add different operating systems, or even different flavors  (read: Linux Distros) of the same operating system.  There are tons of ARM-based devices coming out this year, many of which are tablets, touchscreen PCs and smartphones running Windows 8. So, it seems that all the initial excitement felt by the developer community when Microsoft announced its support for ARM-based devices might have been premature.

Is there any hope of bypassing  Microsoft’s latest attempt to hinder  user freedom?

Well there is indeed a small ray of sunshine. Private  developer groups, hackers, and modding enthusiasts are hard at work, figuring out how to get around the secure boot mode issue. Meanwhile, if dual booting is a major concern, it may be a good idea to avoid ARM-based devices that run on Windows 8, as booting Linux, Android, Solaris, Windows 7, and its older siblings might not be possible. It seems like Microsoft is trying to create a closed-off development and user environment, just like Apple did with its platform, which, in all honesty, seems like a pretty bad move.

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