Intel shows PC booting Windows with UEFI firmware

The last vestige of the 1980s PC may soon be wiped out from your PC: Intel has demonstrated a PC that boots Windows using a UEFI firmware startup sequence.

UEFI is a specification for a bootloader and runtime interface between a computer’s hardware and OS supported by an alliance of the world’s major PC and software makers.

BIOS giants AMI and Phoenix have also announced that they are releasing UEFI firmware for system makers and Panasonic Sony and Samsung are already on board with the Phoenix platform.

Intel put the UEFI PC front and centre in Chief Technology Officer Justin Rattner’s opening keynote for IDF Beijing today.

The PC itself was built by Chinese computer company Great Wall Computer and included an impressive GUI for the startup sequence.

Lu Zenhyu Vice President of Great Wall Computer showed a PC in pre-boot using a UEFI startup sequence – a graphical user interface that provides user selection based on the user’s photo.

While still in pre-boot the user logs in to the PC by swiping their finger on a fingerprint scanner and once authenticated Windows XP boots as normal.

The development of the PC was helped by an agreement between Intel and China’s Ministry of Information. Although Intel didn’t elaborate on what the agreement entailed it most likely covered intellectual property protections around Intel’s EFI technology.

American Megatrends (AMI) announced its UEFI solution named Aptio which it said was the end result of “years of work” with Intel.

Aptio is based on the PEI and DXE core from the Intel Innovation Platform for EFI. It allows PC makers to develop their startup systems in the “Visual eBIOS (VeB)” graphical development environment.

“Aptio has been tested and is available for recent and upcoming Intel chipsets” said AMI “as well as on chipsets from AMD/ATI NVIDIA VIA and SiS.”

“The firmware supports the latest technologies such as x64 for Vista Longhorn TCG/TSS security Intel Speedstep and Enhanced Speedstep Intel AMT AM PowerNow and Cool ‘n Quiet.”

Competitor Phoenix Technologies announced SecureCore a UEFI 2.0 compliant core system firmware platform. It also supports legacy BIOS implementations and drivers according to Phoenix indicating that the transition to true UEFI booting and hardware is likely to be a slow phased approach from now on.

“Previous versions of our BIOS products provided a bridge from legacy BIOS to UEFI but SecureCore enhances this transition by including support for EFI drivers.”

The companies say that this time UEFI is really happening — Panasonic Samsung and Sony have already licenced the Phoenix SecureCore technology for implementation in their PCs.
Phoenix said UEFI was supported by Microsoft in both Longhorn Server and Windows Vista and indeed this seems to be supported by a white paper that was quietly released by Microsoft in December last year detailing requirements for UEFI compatibility with Windows.

UEFI takes the main stage: no really Intel is deadly serious about killing off the BIOS

The initial boot screen: so far not so different from a standard BIOS
GUI startup: like no BIOS you’ve ever used before except the ones with a GUI interface
Pick a user any user: as long as you look like the president of Great Wall Computer
Swipe your finger to log in: remember this is all still in pre-boot… not too shabby
Shazaam: the ceremonial booting of XP on a UEFI system…
And just for comparison: a reminder what the same PC looks like with BIOS. Mmmm. Ugly but familiar.
Key points: we didn’t understand the rest since the presentation was in mandarin but we got the gist