Microsoft’s decision to lay restrictions that consequently block its rivals from using their soon to be introduced Windows 8 on ARM is being resented by Google and Mozilla. Firefox has compared Microsoft’s move to returning to the dark ages wherein consumers and developers were short of browser choices save Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Mozilla believe Microsoft’s decision to restrict browsers on Windows on ARM will reduce choices for users, reduce competition in the market and restrict innovation as only Internet Explorer will be able to run on Windows RT.
This will lead to Internet Explorer being the only browser (at least initially) that will be able to carry out several advanced functions that are important to modern browsers relating to speed, security and stability. Other browsers should also be allowed to run in Windows on ARM, Mozilla contends.
Asa Dotzler, director at Mozilla Firefox stated that Microsoft provides IE with special access to 32 APIs that are essential for running a capable modern browser. This access will not be given to other browsers, ensuring that none of them can compete with IE’s features or performance. This violates the statement of principles given by Microsoft regarding opportunity, choice and interoperability. Mozilla now expects Microsoft to stick to these principles. Google, founder of Chrome, expressed similar concerns regarding Microsoft’s decision. Google welcomes competition and believes it benefits both consumers and developers.
Microsoft had earlier announced that Windows 8 RT, earlier introduced as Windows on ARM, will only support limited Microsoft apps. Windows 8 is introducing the tiled and touch-based Metro user interface. For this purpose, Mozilla was planning on building a version of Firefox using the same framework that Microsoft has used in creating Metro apps for Windows 8. Mozilla was to create a single product which would become the browser by default in the Classic as well as the Metro environment when installed traditionally. However, it is now highly doubtful that Microsoft will allow this and if Mozilla’s popular Firefox browser will work on Windows on ARM, leading to Mozilla losing out on scope for considerable growth.
Microsoft’s lawyers have made it clear that no other browsers will be allowed on ARM, for either technical or political reasons. In Microsoft’s defense, companies like Apple too allow only a single native browser on their platform, which is their own Safari browser. Though not much can be predicted about the success of Windows RT, it could be Microsoft’s biggest chance at competing with Apple and Google’s Android in the tablet sphere.