James Bottomley - 27 November 2012
Adventures in Microsoft UEFI Signing
A lot of people have been asking why the Linux Foundation is concentrating on making sure there’s a Linux Boot solution for Windows 8 PCs that’s compatible with the GPLv3 requirements and not really doing anything about ARM (for which the current Windows 8 hardware requirements mandate no ability either to turn off secure boot or to replace the keys).
The answer to this comes in several parts:
firstly in the PC space, Microsoft has an effective headlock on the OEM and ODMs: no desktop PC ships without a Windows compatibility sticker (the situation is different in the server market, but this is specifically about desktop PCs). Therefore in order to continue simply booting Linux on laptops and desktops, it is a huge priority to find a solution to this problem.
Secondly: in the overall mobile marketplace, which encompasses tablets and smartphones, Microsoft has a very tiny presence: somewhere between 2-5%.
Linux (Android) has the majority presence: by some counts, Android is >50% in this market space with Apple a close second. Therefore, a Microsoft mandate in an industry where they have no dominance is simply not really threatening (unlike the PC space where they have complete dominance).
The third problem is more philosophical: all Apple phones and tablets are locked down via cryptographic or other means (it’s not exactly the same as the UEFI secure boot lockdown, but it is similar) so it seems unreasonable to attack Microsoft but not Apple for doing this
Additionally, a lot of Android devices also come locked down out of the box, so we haven’t even got our own house in order yet. HTC and Samsung have bought into the argument that a flourishing mod rom ecosystem aids sales of mobile devices, so a growing number of Android phones ship with the oem unlock functionality (which turns off the boot lock in exchange for voiding the warranty
) and thus we’ve been making considerable headway opening up the Android mobile ecosystem to the mod roms. In this instance, I’d like to proceed with the economic argument and use persuasion to make at least the Android ecosystem more open. Since Apple wants to retain a tight leash on what they regard as their hardware, I can’t ever see them doing anything other than battle with their mod rom ecosystems, and Microsoft is pretty much of the same mind set. In the long run it cuts them off from external sources of innovation and limits their horizons to what their in-house engineers can think of, so I really believe that having Microsoft and Apple employ lockdowns will actually contribute, at least in part, to the rise of Linux on mobile devices.Full blogAlso see Crow's post