[link|http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/pulpit20040916.html|Cringely at PBS.org]:

There IS a new USB standard in the works and it is at the heart of Microsoft's sudden interest in USB security. Co-developed with Intel, the new USB standard specifically excludes Linux and probably OS X devices as well. I'm told the Intel folks are quite embarrassed about this, but feel powerless to do anything about it. The new standard will be sold to USB device makers as a chance to replace every device they've already sold, and PC makers will be told they can do the same with every desktop. But for non-Windows computers the likely result will be that Windows-standard USB devices will no longer be compatible, which means there will have to be two USB standards, and the non-Windows variety will have lower sales volume and therefore higher prices. Going further, the PC standard will lead to motherboards that will be hostile to Linux, and will likely mean that loading Linux will result in a PC with inoperative USB ports. This, too, could mean dual motherboard standards, again with the Windows variety having higher volumes and lower prices.


This hardly means the end for Linux, but it shows that Microsoft has finally some leverage against Linux beyond fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

A lot can happen in two years. Microsoft will probably change course a couple more times between now and then, but this USB security problem will remain as will Microsoft's solution for it. Redmond could decide to open the new USB standard to Linux, but in order for that to happen immense customer pressure on Ballmer and Gates and/or Hell freezing over would have to take place.

More likely the clever boys of girls of Open Source will hack the new USB, but Microsoft has a legion of lawyers ready to handle that exactly the same way that the Sun legal department once wrote the Java license solely with Microsoft in mind, and produced a $1.75 billion payday as a result. With serialized devices it should be possible to poll every compromised device on the Net just like using a traffic camera to catch drivers who run red lights. No, there needs to be another answer, perhaps one that transcends the original security problem, giving Linux yet another advantage over Windows. The clock is ticking.

DMCA is probably involved too - we wouldn't want people reverse engineering security features, would we?

It's speculation, and speculation has been going on like this since MS got control of the hardware specification from IBM, but the threat is real. Eternal vigilence is required.