Windows RT browser concerns to be reviewed by Senate Committee

At the end of last week, the Mozilla Foundation publicly voiced its concerns about certain restrictions that Microsoft is imposing on its new Windows RT operating system – the version of Windows 8 designed and optimised for ARM-based devices. Microsoft’s plan is for Internet Explorer 10 to be the only browser on Windows RT that can operate in both the new Metro and ‘classic’ Desktop environments.

Mozilla’s complaints have not gone unnoticed outside of the tech community. GigaLaw.com picked up news from The Hill that US Senate Judiciary Committee staffers intend to review the allegations made by Mozilla – and also by Google – that Microsoft’s browser policy for these devices is anti-competitive. An aide to the Chair of the Antitrust Subcommittee, Senator Herb Kohl, confirmed the Committee's plans to look into the concerns, although there are no indications as yet that anything resembling a full antitrust investigation will be launched against Microsoft.

There may well be incredulity at the idea that Microsoft - which effectively has zero share of the tablet market, alongside Apple's dominant iPad, and even the range of slow-selling Android tablets out there - could be held accountable for antitrust violations in this context. But remember that antitrust legislation is in place to prevent anti-competitive behaviour; there is no pre-requisite for a monopoly of any kind to exist for antitrust violations to be demonstrable.

Lawyers acting for Mozilla and Google would likely contend that Microsoft's tablet market share is irrelevant here in any case - the issue relates specifically to browser market share, and they would probably assert that in restricting the capabilities of third-party browsers on Windows RT, Microsoft is seeking to unfairly promote Internet Explorer on RT systems, as a means to safeguard its browser usage on those devices, in reaction to the downward trend of its global share of the browser market.

Windows RT focuses its user experience almost exclusively on the Metro environment, with only a few selected programs - including ARM-optimised versions of Office - able to run on the Desktop. While browsers such as Mozilla’s Firefox and Google Chrome will be available within the default Metro user experience on Windows RT, Metro apps have some restrictions that do not exist on Desktop programs – plug-ins such as Flash won’t be available in Metro web browsers, for example.

Mozilla’s position – shared by Google – is that this gives Internet Explorer an unfair advantage on Windows RT devices. In their own words, this state of affairs “restricts user choice, reduces competition and chills innovation”, and they believe that Microsoft is “allowing only IE to perform the advanced functions of a modern Web browser” on such devices.

Microsoft does not plan any such browser limitations for other versions of its new operating system. Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro devices, running on non-ARM systems, will include the Metro user experience and its associated apps, but will also be able to run other software – including legacy Windows applications – without restrictions via the Desktop environment.


Image via Mozilla

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BOOOOOOOOO!
If I was in the US I would throw eggs at the senate unless the ruling affects iOS and Android as well on all device factors (yes even Android TV).
YOU SUCK Mozilla!

another pile of crap from these companies, does the ipad ley you install IE9, does all those crap android tablets let you install IE9. Microsft has every right to just use their own browser on the arm tablets. All these other companies still have access to all the x86 platforms. If it wasn't for Microsoft and Windows most of these companies would have never started to begin with.

Josh the Nerd said,
For the record, Android would allow an Android version of IE but Microsoft didn't choose to make one.

Of course they won't.

Maybe if Google could build a decent HAL that enabled predictable results across the platform, then MS might play.
Why would they sully the brand on inefficient OS?

Josh the Nerd said,
For the record, Android would allow an Android version of IE but Microsoft didn't choose to make one.

Google complains about this yet they stifle Youtube on Windows Phones

"Microsoft is ready to release a high quality YouTube app for Windows Phone. We just need permission to access YouTube in the way that other phones already do, permission Google has refused to provide.”

This is so dumb. The Metro environment is the only one people should be using on these devices.

Mozilla and Google are being just like Opera, crying like a baby at everything Microsoft does.

TRC said,
This is so dumb. The Metro environment is the only one people should be using on these devices.

Mozilla and Google are being just like Opera, crying like a baby at everything Microsoft does.

Apple has got in trouble time and again for for blocking competing apps, if Opera Mini and Safari-based browsers disappeared of the App Store there would be rage, so why should Microsoft be allowed to create a new monopoly.

thealexweb said,

Apple has got in trouble time and again for for blocking competing apps, if Opera Mini and Safari-based browsers disappeared of the App Store there would be rage, so why should Microsoft be allowed to create a new monopoly.

But Microsoft isn't prohibiting Opera Mini and Mobile IE 10-based browsers. They are prohibiting JIT from these browsers EXACTLY like Apple does for the past few YEARS. Right now, I am using an alternative browser in m WP7, but it's using the built-in IE9 layout/javascript engines.

In fact, Microsoft is LESS restrictive than Apple. Anyone can make a browser using your own layout/javascript engines, but don't expect JIT to be available. As opposed to Apple, where you are NOT allowed at all in the first place.

PS: Opera Mini is a server-side browser. All of the rendering is done from Opera's server and then forwarded to the client. What Apple prohibits is Chrome, Firefox, and Opera Mobile because they use their own layout engine and javascript engines.

Why do you think after all these years of iOS that we still DON'T have Chrome, Firefox, and Opera Mobile on iOS devices? Why? Because Apple locked them out by the App Store's policy.

I don't quite understand why Microsoft is getting so much stick from Mozilla and Google about Microsoft not allowing other Web browsers on RT?

Shouldn't they be complaining they can't have their own browser on the iPad/iPhone (I am aware of Opera and Dolphin) which both have massive market shares of their respected markets??

Microsoft's plan is for Internet Explorer 10 to be the only browser on Windows RT that can operate in both the new Metro and ‘classic' Desktop environments.

The "Classic" desktop environment isn't the UI for this version of Windows, Metro is. Nothing except some built-in apps should use the classic desktop. Mozilla and Google are free to develop and release browsers for Metro as much as they like.

Regarding plugins in the metro versions... just because Microsoft are not including plugin support in IE10... what's stopping Mozilla and Google including some kind of plugin support in their browsers?

GreyWolf said,
Make Office Metro, dispose of "desktop mode" on ARM machines... problem solved.

But they won't , desktop still has its own use. You have to use Explorer/MSPaint/Calculator/Sticky Notes/Gadgets and other such classic apps which dont yet have metro alternative pre installed... I dont think MS would waste time on creating Calculator app and pre install it...

bogas04 said,

But they won't , desktop still has its own use. You have to use Explorer/MSPaint/Calculator/Sticky Notes/Gadgets and other such classic apps which dont yet have metro alternative pre installed... I dont think MS would waste time on creating Calculator app and pre install it...

You're looking at this as a desktop though when you go on about those applications. Also there's no say as to whether or not those programs will be ported to ARM. If you need the desktop get an x86 tablet.

bogas04 said,

But they won't , desktop still has its own use. You have to use Explorer/MSPaint/Calculator/Sticky Notes/Gadgets and other such classic apps which dont yet have metro alternative pre installed... I dont think MS would waste time on creating Calculator app and pre install it...

I'm not sure any of those will be in the ARM version. It's designed for portable devices. Besides, calc and paint can easily be written as Metro apps as well, and gadgets have been replaced by Metro live tiles. There's also not much point in Explorer if everything except Office and IE must run in a WinRT sandbox. The apps and OS can handle the storage.

GreyWolf said,

I'm not sure any of those will be in the ARM version. It's designed for portable devices. Besides, calc and paint can easily be written as Metro apps as well, and gadgets have been replaced by Metro live tiles. There's also not much point in Explorer if everything except Office and IE must run in a WinRT sandbox. The apps and OS can handle the storage.

What about Windows Media Player? Video And Music app still wont play all codecs which WMP would. Further Explorer allows you to manage your music and even Windows Phone provided you have USB etc. It also has defender in it to keep it secure...
And no a calculator is an important thing IMO for any college student using tablet ALSO for studying / reading ebooks etc... And they haven't made it in Metro , which shows they wont kill Desktop for sake of those apps.

Panda X said,

You're looking at this as a desktop though when you go on about those applications. Also there's no say as to whether or not those programs will be ported to ARM. If you need the desktop get an x86 tablet.

Which also concludes if you want a cheap tablet , dont buy WinRT tabs at all.. Hence they are proven to be inferior to android/iOS?

bogas04 said,

Which also concludes if you want a cheap tablet , dont buy WinRT tabs at all.. Hence they are proven to be inferior to android/iOS?

Why exactly? I'm sure there will be a billion third party calculator apps in the marketplace.

mrp04 said,

Why exactly? I'm sure there will be a billion third party calculator apps in the marketplace.

Why are you behind Calculator? My point was Metro UI still doesnt has basic apps which iOS has preinstalled , MS is not thinking of adding them clearly...

Isn't the desktop really only there for things like Office? They say anti-competitive but I highly doubt there's going to be that many people wanting to install Firefox on the desktop of WOA. Since there are no ARM desktop programs, it's pretty useless, except again Office. This just seems like Mozilla trying to start **** rather than understanding why the limitation's there to begin with.

Honestly don't those jacka$$ in Washington have something real to do, like PASS a budget, oh wait it would get headlines like this will so no, no budget, just BS like this.

MS can do what they want, they are not under any court or DOJ orders, and it is STILL IN DEVELOPMENTAL, vaporware. Apple has locked out everyone else out of IOS and no one has sued them, and they own about 90% of the tablet market?

Something tells me this will hit the news & people will take, "You can't use other browsers on the classic desktop of the ARM version of Windows 8," for, "LOLO YOU CAN'T USE OTHER BROWSERS IN WINDOWS 8!!111!!!!ON1!!!!!!"

EDIT: Also, I bet people won't realize that the ARM version won't be for most of their computers anyways, so...

I've been using Microsoft products since the company was founded (yes I'm quite old but not dead yet), and I have to say one thing: I've never seen a company in the history of the world (and my lifetime) that gets so damned restricted with their own products as Microsoft does.

I'm sorry, but in the past I can see they might have done some things and practiced some aspects of their business relations that could have been considered techniques for maintaining a monopoly - and realize that it is NOT against any law to have a monopoly but there are laws that kick in when you do things to maintain or gain the monopoly in the first place that is/are detrimental to competitors.

But this time out, my god, it's their OS, it's their product, they should be able to set the requirements as they see fit and that's that.

This crap with companies and competitors and now the US government sticking their noses in yet one more time is beyond pathetic, passing ridiculous, and simply stupid overall.

I'm sure there's a lot of sides to this but honestly I could care less. It's their product, they can do whatever they want with it, that's my stance.

IE's win32 code is tested and verified (and developed with the SDL lifecycle). While Firefox and Chrome may be of the same standard and internally verified, they're essentially an unknown quantity. The desktop on WinRT is not meant to be used, and additional third party apps that have win32 access open up major security holes that don't exist in the WinRR runtime for desktop style apps. Mozilla needs to quit whining.

Not being able to use the desktop interface is only one part of the problem. Metro IE and the coming Metro Firefox both rely on running Win32 code in the background. IE can do this in Windows RT, but Firefox can't because no third-party Win32 code is allowed.

If Mozilla and others really cared about market awareness and exposure let them spend the cash and years of programming to develop an OS on their own. Then they can go ahead and put their browsers in there all they like and lock out Microsoft.

It's high time these 3rd party developers stop crying the minute there's a restriction on what they can do with another company's software. Those restrictions are there for a reason and Microsoft has already discussed those reasons. I for one would gladly give up Firefox addons for extended battery life.

Would Google allow Microsoft to dictate the software included with ChromeOS? Would Mozilla allow Microsoft to dictate the software included with Gecko2Go? Why should anyone expect the opposite to happen when it's Microsoft? Microsoft has never expected or forced Google to include a version of Internet Explorer in Android. Nor with Apple and the iPad.

What is happening here is the government got a boat load of cash with the last anti-trust lawsuit and they're hoping to cash in on that again. Big pockets, those of Google and Mozilla, grease the wheels and palms of those in Washington.

Sranshaft said,
If Mozilla and others really cared about market awareness and exposure let them spend the cash and years of programming to develop an OS on their own. Then they can go ahead and put their browsers in there all they like and lock out Microsoft.

It's high time these 3rd party developers stop crying the minute there's a restriction on what they can do with another company's software. Those restrictions are there for a reason and Microsoft has already discussed those reasons. I for one would gladly give up Firefox addons for extended battery life.

Would Google allow Microsoft to dictate the software included with ChromeOS? Would Mozilla allow Microsoft to dictate the software included with Gecko2Go? Why should anyone expect the opposite to happen when it's Microsoft? Microsoft has never expected or forced Google to include a version of Internet Explorer in Android. Nor with Apple and the iPad.

What is happening here is the government got a boat load of cash with the last anti-trust lawsuit and they're hoping to cash in on that again. Big pockets, those of Google and Mozilla, grease the wheels and palms of those in Washington.

Couldn't have said it better myself. It's getting out of control already how other companies try to milk MS.

Sranshaft said,
If Mozilla and others really cared about market awareness and exposure let them spend the cash and years of programming to develop an OS on their own. Then they can go ahead and put their browsers in there all they like and lock out Microsoft.

Mozilla are creating Mozilla b2g (mobile html5 O.S). Intel are creating their own HTML5 mobile O.S too called tizen. So in the mobile space there will be several operating systems but desktop wise it will be windows, osx, linux, chrome o.s.

torrentthief said,

Mozilla are creating Mozilla b2g (mobile html5 O.S). Intel are creating their own HTML5 mobile O.S too called tizen. So in the mobile space there will be several operating systems but desktop wise it will be windows, osx, linux, chrome o.s.


And desktop wise, there's no restrictions on what browser can be used.

Could Intel be secretly paying Microsoft to add these restrictions to Windows RT and make the Intel based tablets more attractive?

NeoNut said,
Could Intel be secretly paying Microsoft to add these restrictions to Windows RT and make the Intel based tablets more attractive?

That's just a conspiracy theory. The goal is clearly about security, hence the sand boxing in the Metro environment.

NeoNut said,
Could Intel be secretly paying Microsoft to add these restrictions to Windows RT and make the Intel based tablets more attractive?

No Porting the inefficient Win32 stack wasn't possible given the development timelines.

Once the Win32 stack is managed by the windows runtime in version 9 of the OS then these companies will once again get access to the APIs on low power, resource constrained devices.

Why should they? By allowing FFox or Chrome browser to run, they are posing security threat to the OS. If Apple can do it, why can't Microsoft?

Because Apple lets other browsers run on their desktop OS.

The only difference between "WoA" and normal Windows 8, is the CPU architecture, the GUI/apps/etc. are the same. iOS and OS X share the same base, but have a different interface (not just graphics I mean), along with applications, etc.

Also, Microsoft was found guilty of violating anti-trust laws, so they're held to tighter regulations than other companies.

The_Decryptor said,
Because Apple lets other browsers run on their desktop OS.

Isnt this just a limitation for the RT version? As in the tablet version?

From what i have read nothing is to change regarding the desktop edition.

So in turn the apps can still be installed on standard versions of Windows (like Apple)

The_Decryptor said,
Also, Microsoft was found guilty of violating anti-trust laws, so they're held to tighter regulations than other companies.

Not anymore afaik.

The_Decryptor said,
Because Apple lets other browsers run on their desktop OS.

The only difference between "WoA" and normal Windows 8, is the CPU architecture, the GUI/apps/etc. are the same. iOS and OS X share the same base, but have a different interface (not just graphics I mean), along with applications, etc.

Also, Microsoft was found guilty of violating anti-trust laws, so they're held to tighter regulations than other companies.

But this is for Win-RT. Their Tablet OS. This is no different than iPad only allowing Safari as the default browser.

PsyOpWarlord said,

I have multiple browsers on my iOS devices.

Are they really different brosers though? Are you sure they aren't just different apps that use Safari COM's?

Kirkland Yuknis said,

Are they really different brosers though? Are you sure they aren't just different apps that use Safari COM's?

Correction: "Browsers"

PsyOpWarlord said,

I have multiple browsers on my iOS devices.

All of which use the iOS provided rendering and JS libraries (Except for Opera, which has no JS support to speak of). And actually, they're crippled a bit in the latest versions of iOS further than Safari is.

This is about rendering engines and javascript runtimes, not browser shells. Please learn the difference.

deadonthefloor said,

The webkit is what it is, no matter what colour lipstick you put on it.

multiples of the same, try installing IE9 on your ios device.

dr_crabman said,

Not anymore afaik.

on pcs and laptops based on x86 you will be able to install whatever crap you would like to install. This is just a restriction on arm devices which keeps it running nice and smooth without a third party app screwing up all of MS's hard work to keep it snappy and have good battery life

I think Microsoft will remove IE from the desktop before allowing third party programs to run on the desktop in RT.

It really is a disappointment that third party programs can't run on the desktop. They should have allowed it. Obviously x86 won't work, but I don't see why there can't be desktop programs on ARM.

mrp04 said,
I think Microsoft will remove IE from the desktop before allowing third party programs to run on the desktop in RT.

It really is a disappointment that third party programs can't run on the desktop. They should have allowed it. Obviously x86 won't work, but I don't see why there can't be desktop programs on ARM.

quite possible , but it will pose a problem if you want to run plugins etc. If they allow browsers to run their engines , they will have to allow other softwares and if they remove IE from desktop , they would have to forget flash and live with it... Just like apple did.

mrp04 said,
I think Microsoft will remove IE from the desktop before allowing third party programs to run on the desktop in RT.

It really is a disappointment that third party programs can't run on the desktop. They should have allowed it. Obviously x86 won't work, but I don't see why there can't be desktop programs on ARM.

The real problem has less to do with IE on the desktop (though that is still a problem) but the fact that Metro IE has access to "special" APIs that Mozilla and Google claim are essential to write a modern, competent browser, specifically having to do with JavaScript and JIT. Microsoft should have been aware that this could reopen some old wounds since their DoJ oversight hasn't expired for more than two years and they get this over their heads. "Special" API calls are what got Microsoft into hot water with Netscape with claims that it specifically slowed them down.

Because this related to APIs (and they obviously aren't going to cripple their own browser), just removing the desktop app isn't enough. They need to allow Google and Mozilla to install their browsers into their environment. It's an extemely tough call because right now, an ARM tablet will always be in a known state with the only non-sandboxed code being created by Microsoft with a strict code review. Microsoft does not want their tablets to have the same vulnerabilities as a PC.

bogas04 said,
quite possible , but it will pose a problem if you want to run plugins etc. If they allow browsers to run their engines , they will have to allow other softwares and if they remove IE from desktop , they would have to forget flash and live with it... Just like apple did.

Well, there are no current plugins compatible with WinRT, so...

bogas04 said,

Who has WinRT currently ?

The point is, it's going to take a while to port a lot of plugins to WinRT. Many/most will probably just never do it. How long did x64 flash take? This is more complicated.

mrp04 said,
It really is a disappointment that third party programs can't run on the desktop. They should have allowed it. Obviously x86 won't work, but I don't see why there can't be desktop programs on ARM.

Then you are not an OS engineer.
The WIn32 stack wasn't ported in its entirety to Windows RT. They only ported enough to make their critical apps work.

The underlying Windows Runtime of Windows RT keeps all apps in line with a single execution model that prevents an individual app from ruining the experience by being a battery hog or other finite resource hog.

the current incarnationof the desktop will allow a runaway process to consume 100% RAM and 100%CPU which will quickly result in 100% battery drain.

If they allowed third parties onto an incomplete desktop, there would be no way for a customer or tech reviewer to gauge the performance of the mobile device in terms of heat/battery life, you know the Apples.
MS want to have apples too.

Look at most laptop reviews now where they talk about how good / bad the battery is and how much life you can get and these are listed as 'best case' estimates
which always fall short of reality.

Keeping Windows RT developers constrained by the Windows Runtime will allow device manufacturers and Microsoft themselves to say with confidence,

"Our Windows RT systems go on for days"


The LAST thing I want is bonzai buddy turning my 2-day tablet into a mere 2h tablet.