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Linux Users In Spain File An Official Complaint Against Microsoft

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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Hispalinux demands an investigation into the use of UEFI Secure Boot protocol in Windows 8

Members of Hispalinux, a Spanish organisation that unites around 8,000 Linux and GNU users, have filed an official complaint to the European Commission (EC), claiming Microsoft is preventing users from switching to Linux or other operating systems with the UEFI Secure Boot feature in  Windows 8

In response, the US software giant has argued that UEFI Secure Boot is simply a security feature, but promised to cooperate with any possible investigation.

Earlier this month, Microsoft was ordered to pay €561 million (£485m) for not complying with a 2009 agreement that required it to offer a choice of browsers in Windows 7.

Have we been here before?

Hispalinux is a non-profit association established back in 1997. According to Reuters, on Tuesday the group’s leader Jose Maria Lancho presented a 14-page complaint to the Spanish office of the EC, in which he called the UEFI Secure Boot introduced with Windows 8 an “obstruction mechanism”, designed to prevent users from switching to an alternative OS.

Microsoft © Peteri Shutterstock 2012Secure Boot is a protocol that prevents the loading of drivers or OS loaders that are not signed with an acceptable digital signature. In the case of a computer already running Windows 8, this signature has to come from Microsoft.

Lancho and his supporters argue that the feature makes Microsoft’s latest OS “less neutral than ever”, and are convinced that it has a serious impact on the European software industry.

Microsoft has promptly responded, defending the widely used UEFI standard as a whole. “We are happy to answer any additional questions but we are confident our approach complies with the law and helps keep customers safe,” company’s spokesman Robin Koch said in a statement.

Joaquin Almunia, European Commissioner responsible for competition, had previously said that his office was monitoring Windows 8 security features, but was “not in possession of evidence suggesting that the Windows 8 security requirements would result in practices in violation of EU competition rules”.

Just two weeks ago, the EC fined Microsoft €561m (£485m) for failing to adhere to a 2009 agreement in which the software company promised to offer Windows users in Europe a choice of web browsers, the first time any company has been penalised for breaking such settlement.

Microsoft has a long history of misunderstanding the European Commission. In 2004, Windows developer was ordered to pay €497 million (£381m) for abusing its dominant position in the market. The company paid the fine in full, but had delayed conforming to the new guidelines. As a result, it was fined again in June 2006, for an additional €280.5 million (£225m).

In February 2008, the EU fined Microsoft for anti-competitive practices once again, this time a mammoth €899 million – the second largest penalty ever imposed in 50 years of the existence of EU competition policy. Last year, this fine was upheld in a European court.

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