Spanish open source group charges Microsoft violates EU anti-trust laws by banning Linux from Windows 8 PCs. Is it sour grapes?

Microsoft has yet another European problem on its hands: The Hispalinux open source group, based in Spain, has filed an anti-trust complaint with the European Commission charging that Microsoft makes it far too difficult for users of Windows 8 devices to switch to Linux or another OS. Is this a valid complaint or just an open source group crying sour grapes?

Reuters reports that Hispalinux filed a 14-page complaint today with the European Commission saying that the UEFI Secure Boot technology built into Windows 8 is an "obstruction mechanism" for stopping people from booting into other operating systems from a Windows 8 machine. Reuters said the group calls UEFI:

"a de facto technological jail for computer booting systems...making Microsoft's Windows platform less neutral than ever".

Head of Hispalinux Jose Maria Lancho told Reuters:

"This is absolutely anti-competitive. It's really bad for the user and for the European software industry."

Microsoft can't be pleased, especially given that it recently paid a $732 million fine to the European Commission for violating its anti-trust agreement about browser choice in Windows. Reuters notes that:

The European Commission has fined Microsoft, the global leader in PC operating systems, 2.2 billion euros ($2.83 billion)over the past decade, making it the world's biggest offender of European Union business rules.

I don't believe that the Linux complaint has much merit. In February the Linux Foundation announced that it had worked with Microsoft to develop the Secure Boot System that will let most Windows 8 PCs to boot Linux. Open source backers were pleased. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols noted that as a result of the work:

"...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."

That certainly doesn't sound much like a "technological jail" or "absolutely anti-competitive" to me. It should be noted that the Secure Boot System doesn't work on RT devices. But given how few RT systems have been sold, and the cloudy future for RT, that shouldn't matter much. The European Commission shouldn't even bother to investigate this complaint, much less rule against Microsoft.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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