Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Microsoft Hardware

Microsoft Taking Over the BIOS 989

dtjohnson writes "According to this story, Microsoft has entered into an agreement with BIOS maker Phoenix Technologies to integrate the BIOS with Windows. This has the potential to turn PCs into Windows-only machines and also could result in widespread incorporation of Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology into new PCs. It looks like Microsoft is beginning to flex their marketplace monopoly muscles again, after taking a couple of years off."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Microsoft Taking Over the BIOS

Comments Filter:
  • by Dark Nexus ( 172808 ) on Friday October 03, 2003 @06:42PM (#7128675)
    But they don't keep the machine from being able to accept another OS.
  • by JayBlalock ( 635935 ) on Friday October 03, 2003 @06:44PM (#7128703)
    I feel compelled to point out that there's nothing in the article SAYING the bios would prevent other OSes from being installed. Nor, from the description, there is no reason it would have to happen, unless it was deliberately implemented.

    MicroSoft is undoubtedly up to no good with this, but we don't need to go Chicken Little without a little more evidence...

  • by Tauvix ( 97917 ) on Friday October 03, 2003 @06:52PM (#7128791)
    According to the LinuxBIOS page, they have successfully booted Win2k off of LinuxBIOS.

    The biggest thing I see as a problem is the limited motherboard support of the project. However, I suspect that after the first one or two motherboards come out with this new MS-BIOS on it, community support for porting LinuxBIOS will increase.
  • by zeekiorage ( 545864 ) on Friday October 03, 2003 @06:53PM (#7128805)

    Right at the end of the article you will notice that the users will have an option to turn off the DRM...

    Phoenix said the DRM-enabled CME was not part of Microsoft's NGSCB, but that the technology was complementary. The CME would allow PC makers to embed digital rights management directly into the hardware, though they would have the option of allowing users to turn it off.
  • Re:Is this bad? (Score:5, Informative)

    by ydnar ( 946 ) on Friday October 03, 2003 @06:53PM (#7128809) Homepage
    Macs havent had a BIOS for years--not in the traditional sense anyway. They use Open Firmware, an architecturally-neutral BIOS replacement (originally?) developed by Sun. It's pretty nifty...

    More info here [sun.com].
  • Re:Alternative (Score:5, Informative)

    by cygnus ( 17101 ) on Friday October 03, 2003 @07:14PM (#7128994) Homepage
    Why go from an x86 with propriety BIOS to PPC with propriety BIOS?

    what makes you think it's proprietary? it's not. it's called Open Firmware [sun.com] and it's an IEEE standard.

    Open, as in, not proprietary, and you can hack it yourself easily, if you feel like learning Forth.

  • by Penguinshit ( 591885 ) on Friday October 03, 2003 @07:16PM (#7129012) Homepage Journal

    Microsoft and IBM together invented the PC. If anyone should complain, it should be IBM only.

    Actually, IBM alone invented the PC. Microsoft just bought an existing OS that happened to be written for the processor IBM chose to include in the system, and changed the name before presenting it to IBM as their own work.

    It was mighty nice of them to later give the real inventor of DOS a job (even if he still was never cut in on the distribution profits).

    So no, Microsoft had no real affect on the PC except to later on make it (for a while) so that everyone who bought a PC was forced to run their OS.

    That is the way it was from the beginning.

    So we should all just go back to using an Altair? Don't be a horse's ass.

  • by inquisitor ( 88155 ) on Friday October 03, 2003 @07:16PM (#7129017) Homepage Journal
    AMI maybe, but http://www.award.com [award.com] redirects to http://www.phoenix.com/en/home/ [phoenix.com].

    Phoenix have owned Award for quite some time, and practically every board I've seen lately has had an Award/Phoenix BIOS. AMI are making their money mostly on RAID solutions right now.

    On the original story: from the press release on Phoenix's site, it looks like the byline might be a bit OTT (ain't it always?). Basically, it looks just like a turfing-out of legacy crud, turning the BIOS into something more like OpenFirmware or a mainframe BIOS. Just because it's in conjunction with Microsoft doesn't always mean it's a bad thing, but we've got to wait and see.
  • by Balthisar ( 649688 ) on Friday October 03, 2003 @07:29PM (#7129108) Homepage
    There aren't any drivers for other motherboards. If there were, you could install Mac OS X on any PPC motherboard. Mac OS X hides the drivers from you, though. In the System 9 and earlier days, there was a kind-of driver called the System Enabler. All of the Mac systems and motherboards are different, needing different code to run the parts.

    It has NOTHING to do with Open Firmware, which is mostly a bootloader.

    Oh, and you CAN run Mac OS X on a generic PPC motherboard -- run PPC Linux, and install the Mac On Linux virtual machine (not emulator). You can run a lot of Mac OS', including Mac OS X. I've not tried it myself, though, since I have real Macs.
  • by willtsmith ( 466546 ) on Friday October 03, 2003 @07:36PM (#7129149) Journal
    Don't forget about Dual-BIOS motherboards. One could be a WinBIOS, the other a Linux BIOS.
  • by KC7GR ( 473279 ) on Friday October 03, 2003 @08:11PM (#7129415) Homepage Journal
    There's also AMI. [megatrends.com] Also, I really have to wonder if machines with locked-in BIOS sets are going to suffer the same fate as DIVX discs, Microsoft's "Bob," and all the other weird ideas that litter the technology graveyards.

    Speaking for myself, I can say with confidence that I would NEVER, under ANY conditions, buy a system that's been locked up as the article describes. I will NOT tolerate some megalomaniacal company telling me what OS I can or cannot run on a system that I buy/own.

    The good news is that a move like this could certainly be a shot in the arm for the used computer industry, considering all the systems that are pre-DRM/pre-BIOS insanity/etc.

  • Unauthorized Devices (Score:3, Informative)

    by cyberformer ( 257332 ) on Friday October 03, 2003 @08:12PM (#7129418)
    Unauthorized devices means two different things:

    1. Hardware that isn't approved by Microsoft. A Lexmark printer is currently "protected" against third-party ink cartridges by an encryption scheme (which, in the US, is in turn protected by the DMCA). This will allow Microsoft to do the same with every component in a PC. You won't actually need to buy all your hardware from Microsoft, of course, but hardware manufacturers will need to obtain MS's (expensive) authorization. To prevent a backlash against a huge extension of the MS tax, Microsoft will spin it as something like "compatability assurance" or "security testing".

    2. Non-DRM hardware. Pay-per-view movies and pay-per-play music won't generate much revenue for the MPAA/RIAA if the consumer can simply hook up the media player (which is what the PC will become) to a VCR or tape recorder. You'll need MS-approved, DRM-crippled monitors and headphones.

    Microsoft claims that unathorized devices are a threat. In particular, they say that Palladium (of which this BIOS is a crucial part) will prevent hardware keystroke sniffers, by encrypting everything between the keyboard and the PC. The problem with this argument is that the encryption keys are held by Microsoft, not the computer owner.
  • Re:IBM (Score:3, Informative)

    by bhtooefr ( 649901 ) <bhtooefr@bhtooefrPERIOD.org minus punct> on Friday October 03, 2003 @08:22PM (#7129467) Homepage Journal
    Judging by the copyrights on a Dell? You must be out of your mind, or never looked at a new (latest generation, available for a couple months before the b2s rush) Dell. They're running the current version of PhoenixBIOS now (maybe not on their managable (OptiPlex and Latitude) systems, but definitely on their home systems). Look at the boot screen on an Inspiron 1100. It's in 1024x768x256 (or more). The only one that can do that is the latest version of PhoenixBIOS.
  • by Robber Baron ( 112304 ) on Friday October 03, 2003 @09:01PM (#7129638) Homepage
    ...doing so would be illegal under the DMCA...

    It might come as a shock to some.here's a whole lot of this planet that doesn't come under the auspices of either America or the DMCA. I piss with great force on your DMCA! Within a day there'll be a fix for this that the rest of the (non-American) world will be able to use and enjoy! Ha!
  • by PetoskeyGuy ( 648788 ) on Friday October 03, 2003 @09:20PM (#7129726)
    Perhaps they want to stop things like this program [highcriteria.com] that installs a VxD audio recorder. It installs itself as a sound card makes all the DRM you have useless.

    Load encrypted file, Verify Rights, Decrypt Audio Stream, send result to sound card which saves it straight to Wav, MP3 or Ogg. Thank you very much.

    Actually this is why I bought it. I consider it a very nice audio conversion program that works with all formats. Better then SoX [sf.net]!
  • BSOD? (Score:2, Informative)

    by FrankieBoy ( 452356 ) on Friday October 03, 2003 @09:55PM (#7129882)
    Wow! Now I won't have to wait for the POST to finish before I get a Blue Screen.
  • by Karadryel ( 644871 ) on Friday October 03, 2003 @10:07PM (#7129951)
    And in the battle of public opinion, you can't beat the 500 pound elephant willing to lie.
    So this is a bit offtopic, but you really don't have much sense of scale, do you? A 500 pound elephant? Most elephants weigh north of 5 tons - that is, roughly 20 times the size of your DRM-enforcing behemoth.

    Check out the Oakland zoo's little blurb for the size (it was the first reference off a google for "weight african elephant"): http://www.oaklandzoo.org/atoz/azeleph.html

  • by Jon Abbott ( 723 ) on Friday October 03, 2003 @10:41PM (#7130120) Homepage
    Keep in mind that while OS 9 won't boot on newer Macs, it still runs perfectly fine under "Classic" mode on OS X. There isn't a whole lot that requires booting 9.x nowadays, anyway.
  • by moof1138 ( 215921 ) on Friday October 03, 2003 @10:52PM (#7130169)
    "Apple's special BIOS" is called Open Firmware. And it is called 'Open' for a reason - it is a documented open standard (IEEE 1257) that Apple implemented. Sun and IBM amonug others also use Open Firmware on their systems - it is enough of a standard that Apple engineers have referred people to Sun's docs on Open Firmware on the listservs in the past. The Mac OS may need Open Firmware to boot, but there is nothing preventing anyone from bootstrapping any other OS, and various PPC Linuxes and BSDs all use OF to bootstrap.
  • by GutBomb ( 541585 ) on Friday October 03, 2003 @11:00PM (#7130214) Homepage
    the difference is that MS is restricting. apple is not restricting. the new hardware is simply incapable of booting os 9. the mac os has needed "enablers" to get them working on machines released after the release of the OS. they no longer support os 9 and have moved all of their efforts to os x. why continue to make enablers for a product that is no longer supported and has been end-of-lifed?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 03, 2003 @11:00PM (#7130215)
    Award is owned by Pheonix.
  • Windows 2000 (Score:2, Informative)

    by metamatic ( 202216 ) on Friday October 03, 2003 @11:51PM (#7130431) Homepage Journal
    I use Windows 2000 every day at work. It's shitty. It still crashes, except by default it automatically clears the embarrassing blue screen and just spontaneously reboots.

    Just today my laptop suddenly decided it didn't want to recognize the network any more. Wouldn't renew a DHCP lease, even. Reboot, everything's fine. It's never done that before, so I'm hoping it's a one-off thing.

    The machine at work will get stuck with one or more modifier keys pressed, about once a week. Sometimes you can shake it back to normal by switching between windows a few times. Sometimes you have to reboot.

    Our admin assistant had the same problem... I found out because by the time she'd worked out what was going on, she'd accidentally dragged the task bar across the screen, and couldn't work out how to drag it back.

    Sure, it's stable compared to Windows 95 or 98. I haven't had it randomly reboot in weeks, it just acts all flaky and I have time to do a controlled reboot. It still sucks though.

    I should point out that I'm talking about three different machines, OS installed by three different people. I say this because I know the Windoze fanboys will try to find an excuse like "Oh, you have a bad motherboard" or "Oh, you must have an incompetent Windows admin".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 04, 2003 @01:00AM (#7130707)
    Actually OpenFirmware, originally known as OpenBoot was invented by Sun and then submitted to the IEEE as a standard (IEEE1275) apple then adopted it, got rid of it, and then adopted it again.
  • by FrostedWheat ( 172733 ) on Saturday October 04, 2003 @04:28AM (#7131291)
    I can see the next ms.blaster worm that wipes your bios requireing you to replace the ROM

    This has already happened [stiller.com]!

    Thankfully the person it happened to had two machines with the exact same ABit motherboard. He took out the BIOS from the good machine, used it to boot the dead one. Once it was running he put the bad BIOS back and re-flashed it.

    I didn't think it would work, but the machine is going great now. Well, until the capacitors starting blowing up ... but that's another story ... :)
  • by arthas ( 654815 ) on Saturday October 04, 2003 @06:47AM (#7131548)
    There is a better way. My alpha has two different firmwares: SRM for Tru64 (Digital Unix) and OpenVMS operating systems and ARC for Windows NT. I can switch from SRM to ARC using command: "set os_type nt" and then "init". If I want to go from ARC to SRM I just choose "switch to OpenVMS or Digital Unix console" or something like that from ARC menu and power-cycle the machine.

    The Alpha architechture specification actually (if memory serves) does not define any console firmware. This means that the OS vendor can write his own firmware for his own OS.

    I think it would be great if PCs had these features:
    1) There could be multiple (at least two) firmware images stored in firmware chip
    2) OS developers could develop their own firmware

    Then if someone could port OpenBoot/OpenFirmware (used in Sun UltraSPARC and Apple Macintosh systems) to PCs...

Genius is ten percent inspiration and fifty percent capital gains.