Consumers who love to replace the existing firmware of their smartphones with a custom ROM such as CyanogenMod might not be able to do it easily with devices that will use Intel’s next generation 64-bit Merrifield processor. This new processor is the company’s most powerful mobile processor to date that offers a long battery life. It’s also built to be very secure that once the operating system is replaced certain key features of the device will be disabled.
Intel’s Platform Architecture Specialist Frank Kuypers explained that a new feature has been added to Merrifield called “hooks” which basically allows certain operating system functions as well as applications to interact directly with the processor and determines whether a process is allowed to be run or not.
Hooks is in essence a security feature that allows the processor to detect all processes taking place and restrict them if needed. It is initially designed for the enterprise. A possible scenario is that companies could give out smartphones to its workers without worrying if these devices will get compromised. It prevents employees from installing untrusted software and prevents access to the corporate network if the device gets lost. Because of this feature, simple tasks such as sending an email may be restricted or even an entire operating system may not be used.
Kuypers further explains that the new processor is able to detect if the original operating system of the device has been replaced with another version such as CyanogenMod. Once it detects a change it will block key functions of the device such as LTE/UMTS and the ability to send emails. The reason for this is that the chip detects the new OS as a risk and will block certain features unit the device reverts back to the original OS.
The Merrifield with the hooks feature will be active beginning this year and will lock a device out for certain operating systems. Intel has not released a list yet as to which operating systems will be able to work without any problems with this chip.
This latest technology of Intel may become unpopular to consumers who love to personalize their devices however the company says that security is their top most priority. While I can see this to be accepted at the enterprise level I’m doubtful if this will be popular on the consumer level.