As Microsoft prepares to launch Windows 8 sometime this year, the company has published a new set of Windows Hardware Certification Requirements. These requirements govern the hardware specifications for machines on which Windows can be installed. These sorts of requirements are nothing new – Microsoft has been publishing them for several years. This time, however, there is a hidden gem in the requirements that is causing a fair bit of concern.
In order for Windows 8 to be legally installed on a computer with an ARM processor, that machine must have custom boot mode disabled. Custom boot mode allows users to add new operating system signatures to the system’s database, enabling them to install, for example, Linux-based systems on their machines. With custom boot disabled, that capability is taken away. In other words, Microsoft is demanding that every ARM-based computer that ships with Windows 8 must be locked down in such a way that competing operating systems can never be installed.
Microsoft’s argument is that the goal of this new requirement is to give users the best and most secure experience possible. it is difficult to see, however, how preventing users from installing non-Windows operating systems could be construed as a security measure. At any rate, the significantly smaller market share of ARM processors means that these requirements will not impact very many users, at least at first. However, as ARM’s market share grows – especially with the introduction of so many ARM-based ultrabooks at this year’s CES – that problem could grow considerably larger.[Source: Software Freedom Law Center]