Fears About Monopoly Negated by Low IE Share on Mobile Devices

By Robert J. Mullins  |  Posted 2012-06-11 Print this article Print

€œWindows on ARM€”as currently designed€”restricts user choice, reduces competition and chills innovation,€ Anderson wrote. €œBy allowing only IE to perform the advanced functions of a modern Web browser, third-party browsers are effectively excluded from the platform.€

Blocking other browsers from Windows RT on ARM devices running in Windows Classic mode may only affect tablets and smartphones, but could also be introduced on desktop and laptop machines in the future, doing more harm to competitors, Anderson argued.

Asked for comment for this story, Microsoft responded by sharing a blog post from February on Windows on ARM (WOA) that included comments from readers imploring Microsoft to admit other browsers onto the platform.

But one analyst thinks Mozilla may be exaggerating things a bit.

€œWhile I can understand the point of the Mozilla complaint, I think they're using too broad a brush here,€ said Charles King, principal analyst with the research firm Pund-IT.

€œIn the IE vs. Netscape days, Microsoft was clearly using its dominance as a desktop OS vendor to quash browser competition,€ King continued. However, in today€™s environment, Microsoft has much weaker share in the tablet environment than it had in PCs, and €œit seems unlikely€”to me, anyway€”that Win8 on ARM will ever be a serious threat to Android-based tablets, let alone the iPad.€

In fact, Internet Explorer holds only a 1 percent share, globally, of the market for browsers on tablets and other mobile devices, according to May 2012 figures from Net Applications. Apple€™s Safari controls nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of the mobile browser market, thanks to the popularity of the iPad and iPhone. Google€™s Android is next largest at 19 percent followed by Opera Mini at 13 percent.

And even in desktop computers, where Windows still dominates the operating system market, IE holds a 54 percent share, still the largest, but there is much more choice than when IE ruled the browser world. Firefox and Chrome each held a 20 percent share in May, according to Net Applications.

Mozilla is also working on a version of Firefox for the Windows 8 machines on which it would be welcome. Opera Software says its plans for Windows 8 remain a work in progress.

€œWhat we can say about Metro is simply that we are evaluating it. We know users will want to run Opera on it but cannot provide specific plans,€ wrote spokesman Thomas Ford in an email.

Robert Mullins is a freelance writer for eWEEK who has covered the technology industry in Silicon Valley for more than a decade. He has written for several tech publications including Network Computing, Information Week, Network World and various TechTarget titles. Mullins also served as a correspondent in the San Francisco Bureau of IDG News Service and, before that, covered technology news for the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal. Back in his home state of Wisconsin, Robert worked as the news director for NPR stations in Milwaukee and LaCrosse in the 1980s.

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