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Spanish Linux user group files European antitrust complaint against Microsoft

There is no reason to believe that Microsoft's practices violate EU competition rules, a commissioner said earlier this month

Spanish Linux user group Hispalinux on Tuesday filed an antitrust complaint with the European Commission against Microsoft over the use of the UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) Secure Boot feature in Windows 8 PCs.

Hispalinux asked the European Commission to grant a preliminary injunction requiring Microsoft to modify its current agreements and requirements for manufacturers that force them to implement Microsoft's UEFI Secure Boot, José María Lancho, an attorney and head of Hispalinux, said in an email. It also asked the Commission to find that Microsoft is wrongfully increasing its monopoly position in the OS market because it is controlling the UEFI Secure Boot, he added.

Microsoft requires the UEFI Secure Boot to be installed by manufacturers on PCs that run Windows 8. While this protects PCs against malware and the installation of other unwanted software, it also makes it harder for users to install Linux-based operating systems on Windows 8 PCs. This practice is viewed as anticompetitive behavior by some critics, who have accused Microsoft of using the UEFI requirement to try to lock out other operating systems.

The European Commission did not immediately return a request for comment. But the European Union's Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia said in a response to parliamentary questions on March 4 that he is aware of Microsoft's Windows 8 UEFI security requirements.

"The Commission is monitoring the implementation of the Microsoft Windows 8 security requirements. The Commission is however currently not in possession of evidence suggesting that the Windows 8 security requirements would result in practices in violation of EU competition rules," Almunia wrote at the time.

"It appears" that manufacturers are required to give end users the option to disable secure boot, Almunia said.

The Commission will continue to monitor market developments to ensure competition and a level playing field are preserved among all market players, Almunia added.

But Hispalinux, which represents 8,000 users, contends that Microsoft's UEFI demands are anticompetitive. That is why the organization decided to file the antitrust complaint against this "obstruction mechanism," Lancho said.

Consumers lose control over their own machine because Microsoft takes control over the hardware, Lancho said. "The fact is that no software or operating system that needs the boot system to install or work, will be able to access the computer without Microsoft's prior permission," he said. This is "completely unjustified," he added.

"Microsoft's strategy, clearly designed to control the market and exclude competition, affects all software areas," he said.

A Microsoft spokesman in Brussels declined to comment on the matter.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com


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