Microsoft Criticized by Mozilla, Google over IE Favoritism

Microsoft is readying the Windows 8 OS for commercial release later this year.  They’ve already released the developer and consumer preview so people can tell them if there are any kinks in the system.  And it looks like there is.

Mozilla and Google are complaining that tablets and PCs using ARM Holding’s chip design prohibits the use of other browsers aside from Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

Harvey Anderson, Mozilla General Counsel, expressed the company’s disappointment regarding the issue in a blog post, recalling how there used to be one browser for Windows PC, and that was IE.  It was just a few years back that Firefox was allowed on Windows and most recently, Google’s Chrome browser.

Anderson hates to think that this incident is a repeat of the past, that one day, there will only be one browser, and that would be IE.

“It’s reported that Windows RT (the name Microsoft has given to Windows running on the ARM processor)  will have two environments, a Windows Classic environment and a Metro environment for apps,” Anderson wrote.

“However, Windows on ARM prohibits any browser except for Internet Explorer from running in the privileged ‘Windows Classic’ environment. 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. Given that IE can run in Windows on ARM, there is no technical reason to conclude other browsers can’t do the same.”

Some may argue that Windows RT is still in its development stage, so this may just be glitch that can be easily resolved and there’s no need for Mozilla to panic.  But Microsoft already has an anti-competitive history, so Mozilla’s just making sure that everything’s in check.

Mozilla is essentially fighting for consumer’s freedom of choice.  Not everyone enjoys using IE.  Some are more comfortable using Firefox, Chrome or even Safari.  But if devices using ARM chips aren’t compatible with other browsers, then Windows’ increased use of ARM-based devices and PCs would be detrimental for the future of other browsers.

The prospect that the next generation of Windows on ARM devices would limit users to one browser is untenable and represents a first step toward a new platform lock-in. It doesn’t have to be this way.  In announcing the Windows Principles, Microsoft’s General Counsel, Brad Smith, stated “As creators of an operating system used so widely around the world, we recognize that we have a special responsibility, both to advance innovation and to help preserve competition in the information technology industry.”  We encourage Microsoft to remain firm on its user choice principles and reject the temptation to pursue a closed path. The world doesn’t need another closed proprietary environment and Microsoft has the chance to be so much more,” Anderson concluded.
Microsoft hasn’t addressed the issue.