IT service provider Interactive slams tech companies for monopoly firmware tactics

Australian IT service provider Interactive has expressed serious concerns that tech makers are using tactics like ‘digital locks’ to control or limit access to firmware updates, which could ultimately hurt the ability of consumers to easily repair their own electronic devices.

“We have seen instances where the customer has to enter into a direct maintenance service contract with this company, as opposed to a third-party vendor like us, as the only way to virtually access updates for this firmware. Interactive Business Transformation and General Counsel Ari Bouras told the Productivity Committee on Wednesday.

Bouras went on to say that such behavior “effectively attempts to tie the functionality and continued performance of the hardware or equipment to the acquisition directly with the manufacturer of maintenance services only.”

“As a result, this severely restricts the customer’s access to firmware updates and, therefore, their ability to access something that is critical to the functioning of the hardware and the operation of their business,” he said. -he declares.

In presenting his argument in the Productivity Commission investigation into the right to repair, Bouras described the behavior of major technology manufacturers as a form of monopoly that would eventually lead to price increases for maintenance, while service levels, due to a lack of competition, fall.

He said such worrying practices are currently aimed at businesses that rely on maintaining mission-critical applications on-premise, but are expected to spill over to consumers as well.

“This is material that is sort of connected to business operations where there will be a tail attached to that material, and it is unlikely, from a business process perspective, in the next five to 10 years … of go to the cloud, ”Bouras said.

“You’re still going to need this material and that’s where they target first. And if they can get their victories there… at this top of the line… it will most likely permeate the rest of the market.”

Bouras also called out tech makers who tried to justify their behavior as falling under the protection of intellectual property rights, which he compared to a “defense of George Costanza”.

“[Manufacturers argue] there is intellectual property here that we need to protect because updating the firmware, we say, is an improvement, and this is not correct as it can only be fairly and reasonably characterized as a solution to a known issue in the firmware or microcode of a device. It cannot… modify or improve computer hardware or computing devices, or any device that has a technological component that requires firmware, ”he said.

“It’s physically impossible to change the hardware because of a firmware update. Therefore, presenting it as something other than a fix, some kind of improvement, just isn’t genuine.

“I appreciate that people can blur reality with Hollywood, and if you watch movies like The Avengers, or the films of Christopher Nolan, or the Transformers movies, maybe you can mistake the truth for something they are not.

“In the reality we live in, microcode or firmware cannot suddenly change the physical existence of a piece of hardware. It can’t make a piece of hardware inside your computer or serve anything. other than what it is. To suggest that it can is literally a fantasy. “


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