Why Microsoft should lift the possible ban on Linux booting on Windows 8 ARM devices

By Preston Gralla

It appears that Microsoft may block the installation of Linux and other operating systems on ARM-based Windows 8 devices. If true, Microsoft should back off. When you buy a piece of hardware, you should have the rights to do whatever you want with it, with no technology in place thwarting you.

The saga began back in September, when a Red Hat engineer claimed that because of a security feature called The UEFI secure boot protocol, Linux will not be able to be installed on ARM-based Windows 8 hardware.

Microsoft said that wasn't true, claiming, "Microsoft does not mandate or control the settings on PC firmware that control or enable secured boot from any operating system other than Windows."

And there the matter rested, until Glyn Moody, a blogger for Computerworld UK, dug into Microsoft's "Windows Hardware Certification Requirements" and found something there that made him believe that in fact, Linux would be blocked from ARM-based Windows 8 devices. He writes:

"This confirms that it is indeed possible to disable Secure Boot - but only on non-ARM systems (i.e. traditional PCs.) In other words, it would appear that Microsoft is still locking out GNU/Linux from installation on ARM-based Windows 8 machines."

Keep in mind that smartphones likely wont' be the only ARM-based devices to run Windows 8. As Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols points out, Windows 8 will run on ARM-based tablets, and possibly ultrabooks as well.

I can't say that I know whether Moody is right , and I expect a great deal of back-and-forth charges until the matter gets resolved. However, if he's right, then Microsoft should change its security requirements, and allow the installation of Linux or any other operating system on ARM-based Windows 8 devices. Once you buy hardware, it should be yours to do with what you will. If you want to wipe out the existing OS and put a new on one it, that should be up to you. You'll have the accept the consequences, of course, such as voiding the warranty. But the decision should be yours to make.

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