Mozilla not happy with Windows 8 ARM restrictions

Are the browser wars about to flare up once again? That's a possibility after Mozilla, the creators of the Firefox web browser, announced that Microsoft has made a decision not to allow any other web browser, except Microsoft's own Internet Explorer 10, from being run on PCs and tablets that have the ARM-based version of Windows 8 (also known as WindowsRT) installed while in the Windows Classic (desktop) mode.

In a post on Mozilla's blog titled "Windows on ARM Users Need Browser Choice Too", Mozilla's General Counsel Harvey Anderson states:

Why does this matter to users? Quite simply because Windows on ARM -as currently designed- restricts user choice, reduces competition and chills innovation.  By allowing only IE to perform the advanced functions of a modern Web browser, third-party browsers are effectively excluded from the platform. This matters for users of today’s tablets and tomorrow’s PCs

Anderson adds that while ARM-based devices may be used primarily for tablets and smartphones at the moment, there's no reason why ARM PC products can't be made and sold as well. He adds:

These environments currently have intense browser competition that benefits both users and developers. When you expand the view of the PC to cover a much wider range of form factors and designs as Microsoft and others forecast, it’s easy to imagine Windows running on ARM in laptops, tablets, phones, and a whole range of devices. That means users will only have one browser choice whenever there’s a Windows ARM environment.

Earlier this year, Mozilla announced it was developing a Metro version of Firefox for Windows 8. In a new blog post, Mozilla programmer Brian Bondy stated, "To be clear, we will still have a Metro browser as previously blogged about on non ARM platforms."

Anderson says that this kind of move could lead to antitrust litigation against Microsoft, similar to the one that was filed against Microsoft by the US Justice Department in 1998. Microsoft settled with the DOJ a few years later. Anderson finishes his blog post by saying, "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."

Image via Mozilla

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Never mind the legality of Microsoft's browser restriction. This decision will probably be the nail in the coffin for Win8 on non-x86 platforms. Who wants to run a fat bloated OS that isn't binary compatible with existing applications? A new OS has to bring something to the table and Microsoft's name is no longer enough. And yes this is a new OS, just as CE was its own OS despite some of the facilities it shared with desktop Windows. You had no chance of running desktop Windows apps on CE or vice versa.

Mark my words - Win8 mobile has lost all relevance in today's market. Another round of hype & promises by Microsoft which will fall flat on its face. Unfortunate for those buying into M$ nonsense.

all I can say to this is they should get there programmers up to speed and build a metro browser that is good if they want something on the arm tablets, Its MS's OS so why shouldn't they set the rules for security speed and reliability, Why would they want some piece of crap browser installed that would just bog down the whole system. Mozilla are blowing bubbles out of their asses.

Please correct if I am wrong. I think a few people are just jumping in and comment without reading.

What third-party apps are allowed to do on x86:
1. They can build Metro apps
2. They can build Metro browsers
3. They can build desktop apps & browsers

What third-party apps & browsers are allowed do on ARM:
1. They can build Metro apps
2. They can build Metro browsers
3. No desktop app & browser are allowed on ARM except for Internet Explorer, Office 15, and other built-in Windows function such as Windows Explorer. Even Windows Media Player is not included. WOA is very restricted in desktop apps because of stability, performance, security, and battery-life concerns. It's one reason why Metro apps are sandboxed, and their states are automatically controlled by the OS.

Mozilla and Google are free to build Metro browsers on WOA. If they are complain about MS, then they should also complain about Firefox and Chrome on iPad.

EVEN WORST, Apple prohibits Firefox from the iPhone and the iPad because it uses the Gecko engine rather than the built-in WebKit, and Apple has the HIGHEST marketshare in smartphone & tablet. And where's Chrome for iPad? Where's Opera? Basically, any and all browsers that are NOT based on Webkit are rejected.

As I understand: Metro browsers such as IE10 and the coming version of Firefox rely on Win32 ("desktop mode") code. Windows RT won't allow this in third-party browsers because 3rd-party apps may only use WinRT. This makes it very difficult if not impossible to create a Metro version of Firefox and impossible to program it the same way IE10 is programmed.

JIT is not possible with the WinRT API. Mozilla and Google can still code their browsers for Metro, but Javascript would be interpreted instead. Their complain is that IE10 on WOA would have a performance advantage with browser. If they're going nuke on MS, then they should also complain against Apple to EU and DOJ because Apple doesn't even permit Firefox, Opera, and other browsers that don't use the built-in WebKit engine.

This doesn't "feel" like a case where MS just wants to corner the market... it "feels" like there is something more to this, like the ARM version has issues and is cobbled together or something.

You shouldn't be running anything on the desktop in RT anyway, so what's your point Mozilla? Why do I need your browser slowing down my browsing experience?

Mozilla seems to think Win32 would speed up the browser.

"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."

evo_spook said,

Apple allows other browsers to be installed...................


So where can I find Firefox, Opera, Chrome in the App Store? Apple prohibits Firefox and Opera because it uses the Gecko engine and Opera's own engine. PS: Opera Mini is not a proper browser.

It doesn't surprise me. The Metro-style Web browser apps in Windows 8 are actually desktop apps that have unique special permission to have a Metro UI as well. Since you can't have desktop apps in Windows RT, you can't have Web browsers.

Which is a shame.

All this could have been avoided by simply removing the desktop completely from the RT version, of course, that would mean MS would have had to spend time making sure everything works great in Metro (so there isnt a need to go to desktop) and that metro office was decent enough to be an actual selling point... But still...

Leonick said,
All this could have been avoided by simply removing the desktop completely from the RT version, of course, that would mean MS would have had to spend time making sure everything works great in Metro (so there isnt a need to go to desktop) and that metro office was decent enough to be an actual selling point... But still...

They didn't have enough time I think to fully port Office over to Metro so they had to keep the desktop around for that and some other stuff like advanced file management via Windows Explorer since so far there's no real file explorer app on the metro side. There's also task manager, something I doubt they can write in WinRT because of the sandbox limitations that come with it. I think with time and with the WinRT APIs getting more mature we could see Windows RT v9.0 dropping the desktop fully in 3 years.

1. You can still make a browser for the Metro interface.
2. There will be x86 versions of Windows tablets that won't be as closed off.
3. How the hell does it make sense for Mozilla to be talking antitrust when Microsoft hasn't even entered this market yet?

While at a first glance I would agree with Mozilla, then I'd ask what are these «advanced functions». Running plugins? and how would you install them, given that IIRC you can't install anything on ARM, if not on the Windows Store? I think the point is quite bogus

I think MS's concern here about not allowing any other desktop apps is battery life. They think no one else but them can write battery efficient desktop apps?

xpclient said,
I think MS's concern here about not allowing any other desktop apps is battery life. They think no one else but them can write battery efficient desktop apps?

Mozilla haven't got the strongest track record with memory management either.

Memory usage hasn't been an issue for a long time, even since before 4.0 was released it was using less memory than Chrome and IE, only Opera beat it.

xpclient said,
I think MS's concern here about not allowing any other desktop apps is battery life. They think no one else but them can write battery efficient desktop apps?

There is another reason.

deadonthefloor said,

There is another reason.

Must be security. Can't think of anything else. Problem is without choice, they may end up hurting their own platform's popularity.

xpclient said,

Must be security. Can't think of anything else. Problem is without choice, they may end up hurting their own platform's popularity.

The reason is that they would have to rewrite every single Windows API from the ground up for the ARM platform, which would take a lot of time and money, especially since WindowsRT is a brand new platform that was rewritten from the ground up for ARM devices. Instead, they chose to simply create a new API that is cross-compatible between x86 and ARM that runs in a sandboxed environment. The end result? A lot of time and money saved.

xpclient said,

Must be security. Can't think of anything else. Problem is without choice, they may end up hurting their own platform's popularity.

Choice for Windows RT is with metro apps not desktop x86 apps. Just because the desktop is there in the ARM version doesn't mean it's the same desktop. Things won't work, Win32 APIs on that side have probably been tweaked to the point that stuffs broken and it probably took MS quite some time to tweak Office 15 just to run on it as well.

Besides, the last thing we need is people who buy a Windows RT tablet thinking they can run their old Windows 7 apps on the desktop then bitching when they don't work. And guess who gets the flack for that in the end? Besides who wants to use the desktop with touch on a tablet? I can understand if you connect a kb+mouse for it but that's a limited usage case for the types of devices we can expect.

Now as much as I disagree with this decision by Microsoft and do believe that this will lead towards another anti-trust claim, There is one thing that's bugging me. Why is it that Apple were allowed to control what software goes on their devices, yet Microsoft can't? as a note, I do not wish to hear "it's because Apple make their own hardware". Hardware manufacturers license Windows, fully knowing the conditions of which the OS is bounded by.

So... What is it EU and the DOJ? Can the type of software that can run on a platform be controlled by its creator or not? I'm getting pretty tired of all these double standards.

Ad Man Gamer said,
Now as much as I disagree with this decision by Microsoft and do believe that this will lead towards another anti-trust claim, There is one thing that's bugging me. Why is it that Apple were allowed to control what software goes on their devices, yet Microsoft can't? as a note, I do not wish to hear "it's because Apple make their own hardware". Hardware manufacturers license Windows, fully knowing the conditions of which the OS is bounded by.

So... What is it EU and the DOJ? Can the type of software that can run on a platform be controlled by its creator or not? I'm getting pretty tired of all these double standards.

Market share. Apple doesn't own a huge proportion of the PC market so they can do what they want. Microsoft does so come under a lot more scrutiny. I dare say if it wasn't for Android, the tables would be turned on Apple's iOS devices.

I wouldn't mind seeing iOS and such opened up more, Safari on iOS isn't that good, and I'd love to run Firefox instead (And I'm sure other people would like Chrome or Opera for iOS, without them being limited or cut down)

I did like how Android allowed other browsers or such, but unfortunately the issues I had far outweighed that.

Kushan said,

Market share. Apple doesn't own a huge proportion of the PC market so they can do what they want. Microsoft does so come under a lot more scrutiny. I dare say if it wasn't for Android, the tables would be turned on Apple's iOS devices.

So just because of market share Apple gets a free pass? Also, that I looked they do, by definition, are a monopoly. They manufacture the only products allowed to run iOS and OSX software. They get away with that by calling themselves a hardware manufacturer. Oh, and the market share thing too.

Kushan said,

Market share. Apple doesn't own a huge proportion of the PC market so they can do what they want. Microsoft does so come under a lot more scrutiny. I dare say if it wasn't for Android, the tables would be turned on Apple's iOS devices.


Apple has what 95% of tablet marketshare? Did Mozilla/Google whine about browser for iPad?

Kushan said,

Market share. Apple doesn't own a huge proportion of the PC market so they can do what they want. Microsoft does so come under a lot more scrutiny. I dare say if it wasn't for Android, the tables would be turned on Apple's iOS devices.

Windows 8 tablets owns 0% of tablet market share, so....

back to the early 21st century, where ALSO mozilla was whining about IE being a default browser on windows.
Never heard mozilla cry for Safari being default browser on OSX and Mozilla's own browser being default on lotsa linux distro's.
WindowsRT is a CLOSED environment, its not an open Desktop system as Windows 7/8 is.

Its their OS, Mozilla go make your own. before crying the world back a century like they did around IE6's release and getting lotsa W3C standards removed because off similar crying.

For fun, MS should ship mozilla a Windows version without any HTTP/FTP capabilities... -.- go make it fun for the average user to get on the internet without any help.

Shadowzz said,
back to the early 21st century, where ALSO mozilla was whining about IE being a default browser on windows.
Never heard mozilla cry for Safari being default browser on OSX and Mozilla's own browser being default on lotsa linux distro's.
WindowsRT is a CLOSED environment, its not an open Desktop system as Windows 7/8 is.

Its their OS, Mozilla go make your own. before crying the world back a century like they did around IE6's release and getting lotsa W3C standards removed because off similar crying.

For fun, MS should ship mozilla a Windows version without any HTTP/FTP capabilities... -.- go make it fun for the average user to get on the internet without any help.

The difference is that Windows has 90%+ of the market of PCs (and was even higher back then). Apple and Linux don't have a monopoly, Windows does (even by today's standards).

Kushan said,

The difference is that Windows has 90%+ of the market of PCs (and was even higher back then). Apple and Linux don't have a monopoly, Windows does (even by today's standards).


Yes, but this is about Windows on ARM - where Microsoft most certainly does not have a monopoly. The equivalent in this device category is closer to the iPad - although Win8's extra features blow the iPad out of the water, so it feels like the desktop monopoly should apply. It doesn't.

rfirth said,
Yes, but this is about Windows on ARM - where Microsoft most certainly does not have a monopoly. The equivalent in this device category is closer to the iPad - although Win8's extra features blow the iPad out of the water, so it feels like the desktop monopoly should apply. It doesn't.

But it's still Windows, which commands the dominant market share. What if Microsoft had done the same with Windows 7 Ultimate? Afterall, that particular version would only have about 5-10% market share at best.

If this is true then I think it's ridiculous that Microsoft has taken this stance, especially after all the legal trouble from before. For every step forwards Microsoft makes it seems they take two back.

theyarecomingforyou said,

But it's still Windows, which commands the dominant market share.

Let's work backwards here. Apple has a monopoly on tablets with iOS. And since iOS is just a cut down version of OS X, you should argue that they are almost the same. Therefore Apple's monopoly spills over into it's PC division and Apple should be penalized the same as Microsoft on the desktop.

To (mis)quote you, 'but it's still OS X', which commands the dominant market share [in it's own submarket].

theyarecomingforyou said,

If this is true then I think it's ridiculous that Microsoft has taken this stance, especially after all the legal trouble from before.

What do you mean, if this is true? This has been known for as long as we've know about Windows on ARM... no non-Metro apps are allowed. This has nothing to do with the browser wars, and the reasoning is simple - Windows RT devices won't be able to run x86 code. In addition, there is no point in taking any special steps to make old code compatible because old UI code will probably not be optimized for touch.

Maybe you can write an email to Apple requesting that they allow the desktop version of Chrome and Firefox to be installable on the iPad… or the desktop version of any browser running on Android...

Edited by rfirth, May 10 2012, 11:10am :

theyarecomingforyou said,

But it's still Windows, which commands the dominant market share. What if Microsoft had done the same with Windows 7 Ultimate? Afterall, that particular version would only have about 5-10% market share at best.

If this is true then I think it's ridiculous that Microsoft has taken this stance, especially after all the legal trouble from before. For every step forwards Microsoft makes it seems they take two back.


your completely wrong. MS are making an entirely new version of windows that will only run on an entirely new architecture (from a classic pc perspective). Its a new device, an appliance almost (like a smartphone or iPad). They have not said "you can't make Firefox for windowed8 on ARM" they have said the only apps available to install on this OS are apps via the marketplace, no .exe's will run.

Mozilla will just have to make FF available via market to run on metro, like every other app developer out there.

This only effects the ARM builds, x86 is business as usual.

Kushan said,

The difference is that Windows has 90%+ of the market of PCs (and was even higher back then). Apple and Linux don't have a monopoly, Windows does (even by today's standards).


LOL @ Double Standards. Apple is far more predatory and evil that MS ever was, and their market share is growing. Good luck enforcing all of these conveniently directed morals when mozilla/opera/whoever start crying about Safari being the default on iDevices

Actually you are wrong sir this is nothing but a porting of the win 8 OS not a complete rebuild or new OS

duddit2 said,

your completely wrong. MS are making an entirely new version of windows that will only run on an entirely new architecture (from a classic pc perspective). Its a new device, an appliance almost (like a smartphone or iPad). They have not said "you can't make Firefox for windowed8 on ARM" they have said the only apps available to install on this OS are apps via the marketplace, no .exe's will run.

Mozilla will just have to make FF available via market to run on metro, like every other app developer out there.

This only effects the ARM builds, x86 is business as usual.

Curious, where is the limitation stated? The only source is from Mozilla who don't see to back it up. Either that or I somehow missed it when I was reading.

Panda X said,
Curious, where is the limitation stated? The only source is from Mozilla who don't see to back it up. Either that or I somehow missed it when I was reading.

I think the confusion comes from the fact that there's the whole Metro side of the OS and the existing "classic" side (With explorer and such). The problem lies solely in the "Classic" side of things.

Nobody is allowed to make classic apps run on the desktop on Windows RT, except MS Office and apparently IE10.

I would guess that Microsoft would remove the desktop version of IE from Windows RT long before they could cave in to letting other browsers run on the Windows RT desktop. Other browsers are free to make Metro versions.

rfirth said,
Nobody is allowed to make classic apps run on the desktop on Windows RT, except MS Office and apparently IE10.

I would guess that Microsoft would remove the desktop version of IE from Windows RT long before they could cave in to letting other browsers run on the Windows RT desktop. Other browsers are free to make Metro versions.

Exactly, I think the only reason the desktop is even accessible in WinRT is because they didn't have time to, or maybe didn't want to, port Office 15 to metro. The rest is for using Windows Explorer for those who want to do some advanced file management. Allowing "classic" desktop apps to be installed on WinRT would just confuse users who don't know the difference between ARM and x86 and they'll try to install their old desktop apps on it thinking it'll work. Of course in the end the only one who'd get blamed by them would be MS if that happened even though they really shouldn't.

I don't think this will make it far, moan all they want they're allowed to make metro versions so they can do that.

M2Ys4U said,
Yeah I can't see the European Commission upholding this decision by Microsoft.

Maybe, or maybe not? I don't know if this is true but to date MS's stance when it comes to the ARM version is that it's custom built for the specific device thus that ARM tablet is sold as one thing (a tablet "device"). The fact they aren't going to sell Windows RT to people and only directly to the hardware makers is probably enough to make a difference. Like if this was cell phones, it's the same kinda model where the OS/software and hardware are thought of as one device not two separate parts like with a x86 PC.

That's just how I think it will go down, on the other hand I haven't heard of any restrictions on the ARM versions other than not being able to run desktop apps (which is fine actually). Wait and see what MS says about this.

M2Ys4U said,
Yeah I can't see the European Commission upholding this decision by Microsoft.

While I agree in theory, I'm curious to know as to whether this is a restriction on Windows itself (unlikely), or the App store. If it's the app store, I don't really know where they stand, since it at least gives the the illusion of choice. I'm also curious as to why Apple aren't being chased, given that Microsoft are the minority player in the ARM OS stakes.

Mr Spoon said,
This is what annoys me about the EU.
What if I DO want the system to ONLY work with IE10? What if I DO want ONLY WMP? They are causing me more hassle.

Then don't install anything else. Pretty simple. I'm sure you're being sarcastic, though . . .

Majesticmerc said,

I'm also curious as to why Apple aren't being chased, given that Microsoft are the minority player in the ARM OS stakes.

Why? Apple allow other browsers to be installed on iOS

evo_spook said,

Why? Apple allow other browsers to be installed on iOS

They do? Last I heard, the only other browser (if you could call it that) that is downloadable from the app store is Opera Mini. Has this changed?

M2Ys4U said,
Yeah I can't see the European Commission upholding this decision by Microsoft.

I would agree if Win RT were a consumer desktop OS. But it's an embedded device system for purpose devices...

evo_spook said,

Why? Apple allow other browsers to be installed on iOS

And MS will allow you to as well, as long as it's a "metro browser" NOT a desktop browser which for some reason they seem to want to do on a touch tablet which, IMO, wouldn't be smart anyways.

That not actually true Microsoft has stated it will work on ARM based computers as well(many are becoming available these day)I think Microsoft is just blowing smoke out it's butt .

GP007 said,

Maybe, or maybe not? I don't know if this is true but to date MS's stance when it comes to the ARM version is that it's custom built for the specific device thus that ARM tablet is sold as one thing (a tablet "device"). The fact they aren't going to sell Windows RT to people and only directly to the hardware makers is probably enough to make a difference. Like if this was cell phones, it's the same kinda model where the OS/software and hardware are thought of as one device not two separate parts like with a x86 PC.

That's just how I think it will go down, on the other hand I haven't heard of any restrictions on the ARM versions other than not being able to run desktop apps (which is fine actually). Wait and see what MS says about this.