Mozilla, Google riled over Windows 8 ARM browser limitations
Mozilla has the web ablaze with talk about Windows RT, and not in a good way. They’ve decided it’s
time to call Microsoft out for unfair treatment of third-party web browsers, and Google’s in full agreement.
They’re upset because Microsoft is currently only allowing Internet Explorer to straddle the Classic
and Metro divide on Windows RT. Other companies — Google, Mozilla, Opera, Apple — may not be
allowed to do that. That gives Internet Explorer a significant advantage, particularly as ARM spreads
across the entire range of Windows devices. While ARM tablets may be first off the line, laptops and
desktops won’t be too far behind. That’s a problem, says Mozilla, and it reeks of the anti-competitive
Microsoft of old.
Today’s web browsers need deep, deep access to operating systems and hardware. On Windows RT,
it appears right now as though only Internet Explorer will be given that kind of access. Back in February,
Steven Sinofsky posted that apps for Windows RT (Windows on ARM at that point) had to adhere to a
different set of rules. “Code that uses only system or OS services from WinRT can be used within an
app and distributed through the Windows Store for both WOA and x86/64.”
To build an ARM version, you could only use Windows RT code — because that’s the only way you’d
get into the Windows Store, and you can’t get your app to Windows RT devices if you’re not in the
So why cause a fuss now if this looked to be the case three months ago? The Windows 8 Release Preview
is on the way, and both Mozilla and Google are trying to develop full-featured Metro apps for Windows 8.
Presumably that also meant Windows RT to them, but it may not have to Microsoft. Microsoft might have
thought x86 and x64 builds of Windows would be good enough.
Still, Windows 8 and Windows RT aren’t finished yet, and developer documentation is not complete. There’s
still plenty of time before the launch for Microsoft to clear the air, and it’s safe to assume that Steven Sinofsky
will have something to say about the brewing browser storm. Whether his comments will underscore the
fact that Windows RT devices are going to run IE and iOS-like browsers (which are really just feature and skin
overlays atop the Safari core) or dispel the myth that Chrome and Firefox can’t happen on Windows RT ,
well…we’ll just have to wait for word from Redmond.