WinRT vs. Mozilla

Mozilla is crying foul over Microsoft’s decision to lock down Windows 8’s WinRT on ARM devices. Essentially, Microsoft is pulling an Apple by restricting APIs applications can use on their platform, and one major restriction is web browsing. That means no Firefox.

On an iOS device, the lay of the land is similar — applications can use the Safari web-kit to embed web browsing capabilities, but no application can function as a full standalone web browser. Safari on iOS is also very tightly controlled — there are no extensions, so no toolbars, bookmark managers, or password-vaults can interact directly with the Safari client.

Inherently, it’s a very secure design. However, it does limit user choice. I for one would love to use Firefox on my iOS device — I can already use it on PC and Mac OSX. Apple has declared this verboten on their mobile OS, and Microsoft is joining in with similar thinking.

I foresee further contention over this as Windows 8 and iOS aim to dominate the tablet market. Browsers like Firefox and Chrome will be pushed out in favor of a native Internet Explorer 10 or Safari, and we could see a resurgence of the “browser wars” and antitrust lawsuits. Some time ago, when it became clear that Windows was the king of the PC operating systems, a very bright light was shone on Microsoft’s favoring of IE and other built-in applications over third-party alternatives… concessions were made and a blow was struck “user choice.” Considering how Apple is cleaning up in the tablet and mobile device markets, and Microsoft is poised to make a big entry as well, I think we may see a relaxation of the WinRT and iOS standards sooner than later.

Or, one can hope.

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