Too big to fail? Microsoft, ARM, and Windows 8.

Too big to fail? Microsoft, ARM, and Windows 8.

Summary: In Microsoft's handing of Windows 8 on ARM are we seeing a desperate attempt for a company past its prime trying to grab market-share?


Locking down Windows 8 on ARM will not serve Microsoft well.

Locking down Windows 8 on ARM will not serve Microsoft well.

In 1912, three of the ten biggest companies in the world were J&P Coats, Pullman, and U.S. Steel. They were giants in their day. Today, they're either business history footnotes or shadows of their former selves. Why in the world should we think Microsoft will be any different?

I wrote recently about Microsoft trying to block any other operating system from running on Windows 8 ARM-powered devices . While Ed Bott think that seeing this as an attack on Linux and other operating systems is FUD, I don't think that's the point.

I don't see Linux being attacked by this move. I see Linux supporters being annoyed at it--I know I am--but attacked, afraid? No.

Sure as Bott writes "The Secure Boot requirements apply only to OEMs who sell an ARM-based device and Windows 8 as a complete package." and that "If you disable Secure Boot on a Windows 8 ARM tablet, you have effectively bricked it." So, yes you can take this as attack on people who want to switch operating systems, but it's 2012. Now, if Microsoft was trying this trick with x86 PCs, it would be a different story, but Microsoft has backed off from that position. So, is really it that important to Linux that Microsoft is trying to keep it off Windows 8 ARM devices?

No, I don't think so. Today Microsoft can't dictate terms to the computer industry the way they once did. In the 1990s, Microsoft could call up an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and tell them what they could or couldn't ship on their PCs, how much they would pay for the privilege, and they could take it or die.

That was then. This is now. While the U.S. courts found in 2001 that "Microsoft had a monopoly in the market for Intel-compatible personal computer operating systems," the company was only slapped on the wrist. It might have been better for Microsoft in the long run if the courts had insisted that the company be broken up. As it was, Microsoft continued with business as usual. But, the world was shifting under Microsoft's feet and even now the company hasn't caught up with those changes.

While Microsoft continued with business as usual open-source software became more and more important. Even though Microsoft wiped out Netscape, despite the court decision, it was unable to crush Firefox. While Linux was never able to gain a large share of the desktop, it's been taking over the rest of the computing stack. Supercomputers, edge servers, the cloud, data center servers, smartphones, tablets, you name it, Linux is kicking Microsoft's rump and taking names.

In the meantime, Apple came back out of no-where and is now a major end-user computing power. Indeed, if you count iPads as PCs, as the market research firm Canalys does Apple is on track to become the world's number one computer vendor. According to Canalys, Apple will "overtake HP to become the leading global PC vendor before the second half of 2012. Pads, and particularly the iPad, have radically changed the dynamics of the PC industry over the last year, already propelling Apple into second place in the worldwide PC market in Q3 2011."

What's that, iPads aren't PCs? No, they sure don't look like them, but people are using iPads exactly like PCs. Indeed, if you really want, thanks to programs like LogMeIn and OnLive Desktop, you can run Windows 7 apps on an iPad.

Why would you want to though? As Google points out with their push for Chromebooks, which runs the Chrome Web browser on top of Linux in ChromeOS, there are plenty of Web-based applications that you can use with barely any local operating system at all.

What I'm getting at is that Microsoft owned, and still owns the PC business, but that the PC business itself isn't what it used to be. We're replacing PCs themselves with tablets and smartphones. We're replacing local programs, like Microsoft money maker Office, with Software as a Service (SaaS) programs such as Google Docs.

These programs don't run just on PCs, they run on all kind of devices, so really who cares that Microsoft wants to keep Linux off one specific platform? Sure, it's annoying, but it's not the big deal it once was.

Indeed the better question is where in this new world, will Microsoft find a home? Yes, they are trying to move to tablets and smartphones, but Windows 8 is too little too late. Indeed, PCs and local-based computing in general is becoming less important. Despite these sea-changes, some Microsoft executives seem to have thought: "Why not pull out an old trick from our barrel-insist that vendors who want Windows 8 on ARM can only use them for Windows. After all that approach used to work, so it will today right? Right!?"

Wrong. Things have changed. I can't imagine anyone is going to insist on Windows 8 on their smartphone or tablet. Indeed, I think by insisting that OEMs lock down their devices to Windows 8, they'll find that they'll alienate some of their partners. In 2012, Microsoft can't afford to play hard ball with OEMs. If Microsoft insists on acting like it's the 1990s and they get to call the shots, well, they do can join J&P Coats, Pullman, and U.S. Steel in business history's trash can.

If I were Microsoft's CEO-a truly frightening thought!--I'd just pull its draconian Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) Secure Boot requirements from both Intel and ARM architectures and be done with it. Seriously, only a handful of users will ever put Linux or another operating system anyway on Windows 8 ARM devices anyway and I'd make OEMs, Microsoft's critics, and developers happier.

Related Stories:

Linux won't be locked out of Windows 8 PCs, but FUD continues

Microsoft to lock out other operating systems from Windows 8 ARM PCs & devices

Leading PC makers confirm: no Windows 8 plot to lock out Linux

Linux Foundation proposes to use UEFI to make PCs secure and free

Free Software Foundation urges OEMs to say no to mandatory Windows 8 UEFI cage

Topics: Linux, Hardware, Microsoft, Open Source, Operating Systems, Processors, Software, Windows

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  • RE: Too big to fail? Microsoft, ARM, and Windows 8.

    You hate Microsoft, so every article you come up with is going to be an anti Microsoft rant. This isn't going to be the year of Linux, just as the last 10 years weren't and the next 10 years won't be either.
    Get over it...
    • Funny to see SJVN kissing Apple up

      I guess there are too few Linux success stories that he had to cite success stories from Apple - an even more notoriously proprietary firm - to diss MSFT.

      Get over it. Even if Linux is pre-installed on every PC the end users would still demand it to be uninstalled. Yeah it's that bad a product.
      • He's afraid. He claims he's no,t but at least he has an excuse this time.

        When he paraded around claiming victory for Linux as Windows won't run on a netbook, and the majority of peopel want Linux on them anyhow.

        He suddenly dropped out of site when consumers spoke, and Windows became the standard.

        Now he's trying it again - first he says that Linux has nothing to fear, as Windows won't run on ARM, then suddenly - Windows 8 will run on ARM!

        So there's desparation in his words, but at least he can make the claim that "the vast majority of people want to put Linux on these machines but can't because MS blocked them", without being able to offer any proof. ;)
        William Farrel
      • The 1990s again

        Do you realize how manipulative and deceitful you sound trying to sell us the old Microsoft crock that only desktop operating systems matter? Yes, linux was a major disappointment for its backers as a desktop OS. But this is 2012, not 1995. The guys who pay the PR firm that writes your scripts slept right through the mobile computing revolution. They have to beg and plead to get Windows on devices while various forms of linux run away with the market. Yet they still send guys like you out to pretend that linux is a desktop OS with no future. Guess what: the same can be said of Windows.
        Robert Hahn
      • Various forms of Linux

        @Robert Hahn<br><br>Hate to break this for you but it's not various forms of Linux that attract the business. Those mobile firms are not happily deciphering your typical core dumps or learning 200 commandline parameters to operate a linux utility, or whatever bizarre stuff you geeks are so obsessed with. <br><br>They are attracted by Android which is Java and customizable. You could easily port it to a WinPhone platform and still get the mobile vendors interested should MSFT charge them no fee for the WinPhone platform. Let's give credits to where they are due, and that is Android instead of Linux. Linux is not a deal breaker here as you made it out to be but nice try.

        Oh one last thing BTW: It's is STILL 1990s in a sense b/c desktops will remain forever the #1 computing device. You know why? B/c nothing beats the user experience from a 24' screen that a desktop provides. Your 10' or 4' mobile devices can play a supporting role here and that's it.
    • You want to see a company fail?

      just look at some of the long gone Linux companies. Kudos to Red Hat for getting it right, but for the many, many, many, other FOSS companies that are gone and forgotten?

      He could right a novel on that.
      William Farrel
    • RE: Too big to fail? Microsoft, ARM, and Windows 8.

      @Blogsworth "You hate Microsoft, so every article you come up with is going to be an anti Microsoft rant. "

      Why don't you leave if you think SJVN is so single-minded? Ed Bott sounds like your man, he must have his entire 401k invested in Microsoft (poor devil)
  • RE: Too big to fail? Microsoft, ARM, and Windows 8.

    No matter what Microsoft does it wouldn't make you happy. If they pulled Secure Boot as a requirement then you'd suddenly start spouting about how MS doesn't care about user security.

    Microsoft isn't saying Windows 8 ARM devices can only be Windows 8, they're saying that Secure Boot can't be disabled. Why do you think this is the same thing? Aren't you paid to have at least the slightest clue about what you're supposedly an expert on? The OEMs are still free to have secure boot certificates for whatever OS they choose to preload on the unit. Which means if an OEM wants to have an Android option for a Windows 8 tablet, or a Windows 8 option for an Android tablet, they are free to do so. As long as the boot process is secure it doesn't matter.

    But go ahead and write blogs like you know what the F you're talking about. You'll continue to be laughed at by a large majority of computer users.
    • RE: Too big to fail? Microsoft, ARM, and Windows 8.

      @LiquidLearner And I guess the Secure Boot cannot be disabled only if the OEM wants a Windows Logo certification. OEMs are free to provide the hardware in any way they want if they are not going to get the certification.
      • RE: Too big to fail? Microsoft, ARM, and Windows 8.

        @1773 - More likely, OEM's will produce tablets that are certified for Win8, and tablets that have unlockable bootloaders that support 'droid/Linux/etc.

        The Windows certification is vital to enterprise sales wherein many companies only permit purchase of Microsoft-certified devices. The cost to supporting uncertified devices is just too high in many cases.
    • Well, on the issue of being laughed at

      Yourself and the usual bunch of no hopers who stump up every time there's a hint of critique in any form of Microsoft is indeed a source of mirth. A sad bit of laughing, but laughing nonetheless.

      I don't know if you've noticed, but you always defend Microsoft, and attack Apple, Linux and whatever else might be considered not "Microsoft friendly." It's sad, truly sad. And before you go on about me and my proclivities, about 99% of my comments have been to stir up hapless folk like yourself. Your ilk are more amusing than the others.

      And dear God, what would you indeed do without fearless Microsoft Bob Bott?
      • Plenty to critique MS on


        And please point out what about my statement was incorrect. I don't have a problem with valid critique, I have a problem with an author who makes things up and leaves out facts to prove his point. The sky is not falling.

        Does it bother you that Apple doesn't support another OS on the iPad? Does it bother you that the Xoom and Galaxy Tab both have a locked bootloader? If not then why should it bother you that MS wants to enforce secure boot?

        As for attacking Apple and Linux, you're actually incorrect. I have zero problem with Apple products. I don't always agree with the company policy regarding those products and I don't always think they're as superior as many make them out to be but I'm not sure how that's attacking them. In fact I bought my wife an iPhone 4S for Christmas because I felt it was the best for her needs. And I love my Windows Phone. I bought a Droid 2 because I thought I would love it. Boy was I wrong... But that's given my own experience with the product.

        I spend my days working with EMC VNX, Cisco UCS and NetApp equipment. I'm deploying Cisco Quad. I've got web servers and FTP servers that run Linux. I think Linux is awful on the desktop. That's okay though because I use it where it makes the most sense. In my datacenter. I also pushed for us to offer a choice between a MacBook Air and our typical HP laptop. The engineers typically go with the HP because it's substantially more powerful, our salespeople like the MBAs. I offer both because there are strengths and weaknesses in both.

        So coming from someone who is open to any technology if it is the correct fit, both at home and in our enterprise, SJVN is full of absolute crap.
      • You're at best hypothesising

        At worst, you're blathering from "I'm a cool person and by golly I'm an authority too."

        That and as I haven't bothered to respond to the issues with locked bootloaders, here's my take.

        If you are the manufacturer of said item, then do what you like with it. If you are not the manufacturer, you don't get to tell them what they do, you negotiate, you compromise. You don't pull a stunt like, "If you use our software on ARM, you must make it how we want it."

        The fact that it's lame to do it if you're the manufacturer only makes it moreso if you're insisting on telling a manufacturer how to make their items.

        And on your position of taking an author to task for making things up and leaving things out. I'd suggest you aren't exactly consistent, or you'd be hammering away at Bott's blogs, and others too. The fact that you aren't leads me to the inevitable conclusion that despite your statement to the effect that you have an "open mind" you really don't.

        As for me, I have enough prejudices and biases that could fill the Marianas Trench. At least I'm honest about that.
  • Lol Who is this guy?

    Why is Gods name would anyone listen to this hack? Microsoft is one of the greatest companies in the world and has been for many years. I see several alternatives to their software so if you don't like Windows 8 use something else. ZDnet is past its prime as a resource for people looking to read about new PC inovation and I am looking every day for a alternative becuase this site reeks of hate and envy and its really sad.
    • for over a decade I've lamented the MS focus on this site...

      Even when it was obvious MS was in decline.

      It took a while for the authors to come around. It must be disappointing for the MCSEs who have wasted their time on a dude qualification, however finally the IT market is dynamic again with a number of competing products and technologies, underserviced by MS.

      Instead of push MS to actually release products for their sizeable claimed R&D expenditure we find their fanboys crying about authors.
      Richard Flude
      • Come now Richard, that's not true and you know it.

        @Richard Flude

        what are you so worried about, Richard? What drives you to try and create a truth that never existed?

        Are you worried that Apple is no longer being talked about in the shining, positive light they once where? It must be disappointing for the Apple faithful who have wasted their time on a dude qualification of Apple certification.

        And now, when you feel the need to have to defend an author who is critisized from all isdes, well we sense your fear, and do have a cure for that.

        Don't read his articles. ;)
        William Farrel
      • William, whilst you were "studying" for you MCSE

        I'd completed my first postgraduate study.

        I never had an admin certification, started above that pay grade.

        As for history, the Internet records the correct version. Sadly it doesn't support your fantasy. But you could always point to a post supporting your position, hundred to choose from;-)
        Richard Flude
      • Ahhh....But it is true.

        @William Farrel

        You fanbois just hate it when the truth tarnishes your monopolistic Microsoft.
        linux for me
  • RE: Too big to fail? Microsoft, ARM, and Windows 8.

    [i]In SJVN's writings of Windows 8 on ARM are we seeing a desperate attempt for a blogger past his prime trying to grab attention?[/i]
    Fixed the description for you because that's about what this article boils down to. I new as soon as Ed Bott debunked the FUD you would have some type of article to refute it. You are going to have to accept that Microsoft is here to stay and that Windows 8 is going to be wildly popular on both PCs and ARM devices. What is hilarious is all the reasons you say you don't need Microsoft or a PC for are the same services Microsoft is getting into, and between Microsoft and the Google examples you listed I would go with Microsoft every time. This article is just so flawed and full of lies.

    [i]Even though Microsoft wiped out Netscape, despite the court decision, it was unable to crush Firefox.[/i]
    Wrong. Netscape wiped itself out by trying to charge for a browser.

    [i]What???s that iPads aren???t PCs? No, they sure don???t look like them, but people are using iPads exactly like PCs.[/i]
    They are? Who is trying to use an iPad like a PC? The very few people that I know that have a tablet do not use their tablet like a PC. Its a web browser or game machine and that's it. No real number crunching or other processing on it.

    You do realize you are the only one making a big deal out of this Windows 8 and ARM combination?
    Loverock Davidson-
  • RE: Too big to fail? Microsoft, ARM, and Windows 8.

    The grammatical errors alone in this blog post were enough to make me think
    that SJVN has indeed lost what little mental faculties he once had. I'm not sure
    what the point is he was trying to make? For myself, I don't care if Secure Boot
    is enabled on an ARM tablet or not, no plans to purchase one. For years pundits
    such as SJVN have railed against Microsoft for not securing their operating systems,
    yet when they make an attempt to do so, those same pundits desire to drag Microsoft
    over the coals. If Microsoft, or any other operating system vendor for that matter,
    can make steps necessary to protect the boot sequence from attack, I say "Go for it",
    whether it's Windows, MacOSX, Linux, or heck, even DOS!