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ASUS locks Transformer Prime bootloader, sparks backlash

updated 12:10 pm EST, Mon January 2, 2012

ASUS Transformer Prime foudn with encrypted boot

Early Transformer Prime buyers have discovered that ASUS has locked the bootloader on the quad-core tablet. A 128-bit AES encryption layer spotted by XDA-Developers forum members effectively prevents custom firmware from being loaded on the Android device. The limit prevents users from upgrading to Android 4.0 early or otherwise instituting any third-party code that needs a fundamental OS-level change.

As a reaction, those on XDA and elsewhere have begun a social media campaign to not just unlock the bootloader but also to fix lingering GPS issues. Both the company's Twitter account and its Facebook page have been flooded with often identical calls to derestrict the Transformer Prime. Some have threatened to boycott ASUS' tablets until an unlock is available.

"I was so excited to place my Transformer Prime order -- that is until I heard you placed... 128-bit encryption on the bootloader," Micah Allen said on the Facebook page. "A terribly botched roll-out I can forgive, but this is unforgivable. I will be canceling my order unless ASUS and NVIDIA unlock the bootloader!"

ASUS hasn't responded to the criticism so far. Many are asking why the lock is even necessary, since it's usually been imposed by carriers worried about security; the current model is only on Wi-Fi. Advocates of change have hoped they could use the same strategy that eventually led HTC to allow unlocking, even if it can't always support the devices afterwards.

The discovery of the lock emphasizes a mounting opposition to closing off Android and a belief that many of Google's openness claims often dissolve by the time the user gets the end device. A successful boycott could help change the mind of tablet designers but also damage ASUS right as it's trying to get as many early sales before Apple, HTC, Samsung, and others either draw even or, in the iPad's case, pull ahead in performance.

by MacNN Staff



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