Mozilla, Google Take Microsoft Back to the Future With Browser Complaint

 
 
By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2012-05-10 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Will a court battle be the outcome of Mozilla and Goggle raising the complaint that Microsoft is locking them out and locking users in with its restrictions on other browsers accessing the Windows RT desktop?

With Mozilla and Google challenging Microsoft for its decision on which browser can run on Windows on ARM-based devices, the question remains as to what will happen next.

Mozilla and later Google complained that Microsoft€™s plans to allow only its Internet Explorer browser to run on Windows on ARM, better known as Windows RT, is unfair. So why now for this complaint? And what are they prepared to do about it? Will there be renewed antitrust action against Microsoft like there was years ago when the software giant was accused of using its Windows monopoly to unfairly provide an advantage for IE over the then very hot Netscape browser?

Well, a post by Harvey Anderson, Mozilla general counsel, offers an indication, if not a threat, on what the maker of the Firefox browser is considering: €œBecause Windows on ARM relies upon so many traditional Windows assets, including brand, code, footprint, and experience, the decision to exclude other browsers may also have antitrust implications. 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 behavior the DOJ-Microsoft settlement sought to prohibit.€

Does this mean Mozilla, possibly joined by Google, is preparing to run to the European Union or the U.S. Department of Justice for some €œrelief€ here? Will Microsoft relent? Microsoft is not commenting.

Microsoft stated its plans for Windows on Arm in a post on the Building Windows 8 blog. In that post, Steven Sinofsky, Microsoft€™s president of Windows, said, €œWOA supports the Windows desktop experience, including File Explorer, Internet Explorer 10 for the desktop, and most other intrinsic Windows desktop features€”which have been significantly architected for both touch and minimized power/resource consumption.€

Microsoft made its intentions clear that it would enable third-parties to build Metro-style apps, which would run on Windows RT. Both Mozilla and Google announced that they were building Metro-style versions of their browsers. However, the problem for them lies in the fact that Microsoft is only enabling IE 10 to run on the Windows RT desktop.

In a post on the issue, Asa Dotzler, the software engineer directing Mozilla€™s development for Windows 8, said:

Here's what's going on. For Windows on X86, Microsoft is giving other browsers basically the same privileges it gives IE. It's not great that you don't get those privileges (certain API access) unless you're the default browser and I think that's deeply unfair (a post for later,) but at least we're able to build a competitive browser and ship it to Windows users on x86 chips.

But on ARM chips, Microsoft gives IE access special APIs absolutely necessary for building a modern browser that it won't give to other browsers so there's no way another browser can possibly compete with IE in terms of features or performance.




 
 
 
 
Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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