Sony explains why it disabled Intel VT in VAIO laptops

Posted by Staff   |   Wednesday, August 12th, 2009   |  

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At the end of July highlighted how Sony intentionally disabled the Intel VT capability in all its VAIO laptops, making its expensive hardware useless for virtualization professionals and highly undesirable for every Microsoft customer that wants to upgrade to Windows 7.
Now this short-sighted strategy is causing the company a major image damage.

A week after published that article the story was republished by The Register (too bad they forgot to mention our post as the original news source), and immediately after by pretty much every major news outlet including:

To calm down the users Microsoft probably asked a Sony VAIO product manager, Xavier Lauwaert, to address the issue on the Windows Partner blog. His post says nothing but his answer to a specific comment about the lack of VT capability provides an astonishing explanation and fix roadmap (our emphasis):

Contrary to perceived opinion, we have received very little if any requests to enable VT technology up until very recently.

In addition, our engineers and QA people were very concerned that enabling VT would expose our systems to malicious code that could go very deep in the Operating System structure of the PC and completely disable the latter.

For these two reasons we have decided, until recently, not to enable VT.

However, with the advent of XP Virtualization, there is impetus for us to relook at the situation and I can share with you that we will enable VT on select models.

Though, I fear to say that the Z series will not be part of our VT-enabling effort.

Indeed, we will focus on more recent models.

Needless to say, the point is not if Sony is right or not about the risks related to malicious use of Intel VT (anyway, from a security standpoint they are deadly wrong).
The point is that Sony has to clearly advice that its VAIO laptops don’t support a CPU feature that is provided out-of-the-box by the CPU vendor. Without this information customers can’t make an informed choice and since the company doesn’t offer a way to circumvent the limitation this may be enough to start a class-action lawsuit.

The idea that Sony will re-enable Intel only on “selected models” and in future machines is ridiculous.
If a single upset customer was able to reverse engineer the VAIO BIOS and develop a patch to achieve the task, then the laptop manufactured and the CPU maker (cause Intel is to blame as much as Sony on this mess) should be able to release a firmware update without any problem.
And if not, they should recall the laptops it sold worldwide and replace the CPUs.

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