Mozilla: Microsoft blocking rival browsers in Windows RT

Google and Mozilla criticise Microsoft's Windows 8 browser controls

10 May 2012

Microsoft is returning to the "digital dark ages" by blocking rival browsers from the ARM version of Windows 8, Firefox-maker Mozilla has said.

Windows 8 will have standard browser support in the Intel editions, but the ARM version - dubbed Windows RT - will only allow Microsoft's Internet Explorer full access. Rival browsers won't be allowed on the "classic" desktop, while Metro style versions will have limited access to APIs.

"In practice, this means that only Internet Explorer will be able to perform many of the advanced computing functions vital to modern browsers in terms of speed, stability and security to which users have grown accustomed," said Harvey Anderson, Mozilla's general counsel in a blog post. "Given that IE can run in Windows on ARM, there is no technical reason to conclude other browsers can't do the same."

Given that IE can run in Windows on ARM, there is no technical reason to conclude other browsers can't do the same

That excludes other browsers from the platform, he said, describing it as an "untenable" situation that would be a first step toward a new platform lock-in that "restricts user choice, reduces competition and chills innovation".

"Unfortunately, the upcoming release of Windows for the ARM processor architecture and Microsoft’s browser practices regarding Windows 8 Metro signal an unwelcome return to the digital dark ages where users and developers didn’t have browser choices," said Anderson.

Those so-called dark ages were forced to end by regulators, Mozilla noted, suggesting that blocking rival browsers from Windows RT could lead to similar action. "If Windows on ARM is simply another version of Windows on new hardware, it also runs afoul of the EC browser choice commitments and seems to represent the very behaviour the DoJ-Microsoft settlement sought to prohibit," Anderson added.

He called for Microsoft to "reject the temptation to pursue a closed path," adding "the world doesn't need another closed proprietary environment"

Google agrees

Mozilla isn't the only browser maker expressing concerns: Google said it agreed with the Firefox-maker's complaint.

"We share the concerns Mozilla has raised regarding the Windows 8 environment restricting user choice and innovation," Google said in a statement sent to CNet. "We've always welcomed innovation in the browser space across all platforms and strongly believe that having great competitors makes us all work harder. In the end, consumers and developers benefit the most from robust competition."

Microsoft has yet to respond to request for comment.

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