With Windows 8, is Microsoft returning to its monopolistic roots?
That’s the question that Mozilla and Google seem to be asking this week. It’s taken a few months, but it’s finally dawned on both organizations that they won’t be able to deliver desktop versions of their browsers in Windows RT, the forthcoming version of Windows 8 that will run on low-power ARM chips.
Both Mozilla and Google have announced plans to create “Metro style enabled desktop browsers” for Windows 8 on x86 and x64 platforms. Like Internet Explorer 10, those will be dual-personality products that will run on the Windows desktop and in the far more restrictive Metro environment. By contrast, Microsoft’s own Internet Explorer 10 (and presumably later versions as well) will be the only browser that will run on the Windows RT desktop.
In a pair of blog posts, Mozilla project manager Asa Dotzler, who is leading the Firefox development effort for Windows 8, has called foul. Mozilla General Counsel Harvey Anderson also weighed in with a formal statement complaining about “platform lock-in.” In a statement to CNET’s Stephen Shankland, Google added its corporate voice to the chorus, expressing solidarity with “the concerns Mozilla has raised regarding the Windows 8 environment restricting user choice and innovation.”( News360)
In the first post, Dotzler argues: “Microsoft is trying to lock out competing browsers when it comes to Windows running on ARM chips. IE is allowed there but not Firefox or Chrome or Opera or any other competitive browser.”
Dotzler expands on those concerns in a follow-up in which he explains that it’s all about the APIs:
It’s not precisely “running a browser in Classic” that matters for Windows on ARM. It’s that running a browser in Classic is the only way that Microsoft has allowed us to get access to the APIs that a browser needs to deliver modern capabilities and performance in Classic AND Metro.
What’s confusing about all this is that the desktop version of IE10 delivered with Windows RT isn’t going to be a full-strength browser like its counterpart on the x86/x64 platform. Although desktop IE10 on Windows RT will have access to win32 APIs, it won’t be able to run plugins (like Flash or Silverlight), nor will it be able to hook into other apps running on Windows RT except through the permitted “contracts” mechanism.