Both are reducing OS choices for PC owners, pushing PCs further towards becoming disposable appliances.
Call it another blow against OS freedom, part of the slow creep towards turning PCs into consumer appliances. Call it the choice of security over liberty, one our society has made so many times since 2001. Call it annoying. But in the wake of both Apple and Microsoft cracking down on what OSes can be installed on their PCs, I’d like to call it unnecessary.
This weekend, two irritating stories came out about OS vendors potentially locking popular alternatives out of their platforms. Apple, which happens to make gorgeous Windows-compatible laptops, said its new round of PCs won’t support Windows 7. And Microsoft is giving PC manufacturers the option to lock down their hardware and prevent Linux installationsor for that matter any experimental OS.
Security clearly has something to do with these arguments. As ExtremeTech explains, Microsoft’s move is designed to protect PCs from particularly sneaky malware. And Apple is just following Microsoft’s guidelines on Windows 7, as Microsoft signalled in January that it would like to start dialing back support for Windows 7 in general.
But still, I don’t like the precedent. If you build your own desktop PC, none of this will affect you, as motherboard manufacturers will almost certainly leave the security switch that lets you install alternative OSes intact. But more and more people are turning to laptops as their primary machines, and it’s very difficult to build your own (adequate) laptop. Having the potential freedom to install other OSes doesn’t make a computer more difficult to use in its default mode, and having a security switch which can be disabled by knowledgable users doesn’t make a PC, by default, less secure.
Operating system freedom has always been a big difference between desktop and mobile platforms, too. Mobile OS vendors typically forbid end-users from installing any other OS on their hardware. Without built-in restrictions, it’s completely possible to do this. Microsoft last year showed off how the same hardware can run Android and Windows Phone, and we’ve seen both HTC and Alcatel devices offered with different OS options on the same hardware. The CEO of ZTE USA has told me twice how he’d love to sell multi-OS devices. But if there’s one thing Google, Apple, and Microsoft agree upon, it’s that end-users shouldn’t have the freedom to try out alternatives.
And if you have a problem with my wanting to run both Mac OS and the superior Windows 7 versions of both Microsoft Excel and utilities like FastStone Image Viewer, then you need to check your fanboy/girlism.
It’s About Planned Obsolescence Locking out competing OSes and “old” OSes is all part of the decade-long shift towards making computing devices less upgradeable, to advance planned obsolescence and force you to buy new machines more often. One of the things about Linux is that it runs really well on older, lower-power machines which might otherwise be sent to the recycle bin. I’m considering installing Linux on a dying old laptop I have around, to use it as a Web terminal.
Yes, you’ll be able to run Windows 7 in a virtual machine such as Parallels on a Mac. But Apple’s decision to withdraw Boot Camp support just highlights the total consumer failure of Windows 8. (I just checked, and thank goodness, I was never on the Windows 8 bandwagon.) Windows 7 was awesome. I’m still running it on two machines. We all want to pretend Windows 8 never happened. Would it have hurt Apple so much to support the version of Windows that people actually like, until Windows 10 comes out?
The answer for the truly geeky among us is, of course, to build your own desktop. But that’s becoming a smaller and smaller group of people, and it leaves out the growing crowd who want mobile, portable or handheld computing experiences. For themfor us, because I’m of course one of those peoplewe’re seeing our freedoms sadly, and slowly, erode.
Freedom Takes Another Blow From Apple, Microsoft