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Spanish Linux group files antitrust complaint against Microsoft

Claims UEFI Secure Boot is anticompetitive

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A Spanish open source software users' association has filed an antitrust complaint against Microsoft with the European Commission, claiming that the company's implementation of UEFI Secure Boot stifles competition.

Hispalinux, an 8,000-member organization that advocates for and facilitates Linux use in Spain, filed the complaint with the Commission's Madrid office on Tuesday, Reuters reports.

In it, the group alleges that Microsoft has used UEFI Secure Boot, the feature of the Universal Extensible Firmware Interface that requires operating systems to be digitally signed before they will boot, as an "obstruction mechanism" against non-Windows systems, including Linux.

Microsoft requires all hardware OEMs to ship their devices with Secure Boot enabled by default if they want to receive Windows 8 compatibility certification, using a key provided by Redmond. As a result, Linux users must resort to clumsy workarounds to install the OS, particularly if they want to dual-boot.

"This is absolutely anti-competitive," Hispalinux head José Maria Lancho told Reuters. "It's really bad for the user and for the European software industry."

In a lengthy blog post on the issue (in Spanish), the group argues that Windows is far more vulnerable to viruses and other malware than alternative operating systems are, and that Microsoft's use of UEFI as a control mechanism is not a technical achievement, but a technical barrier.

By actively opposing Secure Boot, Hispalinux joins such organizations as the Free Software Foundation, which has lobbied OEMs to turn off the system by default and has urged consumers to boycott Windows 8 PCs.

The group's antitrust complaint comes not long after the European Commission slapped Microsoft with a €561m fine for violating an earlier antitrust agreement, this one over the company's bundling of Internet Explorer with Windows.

Whether the Commission will look favorably upon Hispalinux's concerns in the UEFI matter, however, remains to be seen. In a letter dated January 31, EU Competition Chief Joaquin Almunia said the Commission was "aware of the Microsoft Windows 8 security requirements," but that so far it had seen no red flags.

"The Commission is currently not in possession of evidence suggesting that the Windows 8 security requirements would result in practices in violation of EU competition rules," the letter reads. "In particular, on the basis of the information currently available to the Commission it appears that the OEMs can decide to give the end users the option to disable the UEFI secure boot."

Given that assessment, unless Hispalinux's 14-page complaint can offer evidence to the contrary, it seems likely to fall on deaf ears. ®

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