Third party browser developers Mozilla and Google have both cried foul after Microsoft announced that the ARM version of Windows 8 would not allow any other browser than IE to run in ‘desktop mode’ on the operating system.
"Windows on ARM -as currently designed – restricts user choice, reduces competition and chills innovation," wrote Mozilla’s legal eagle Harvey Anderson. "By allowing only IE to perform the advanced functions of a modern Web browser, third-party browsers are effectively excluded from the platform," he added.
The fundamental problem is that the ‘Metro style’ applications only have access to a limited subset of the APIs on Windows RT. One of the functions that’s missing from this mode is the ability to run virtual sandboxes which it’s claimed is necessary to run some of the browser optimisations such as just-in-time compilers.
Google also backed Mozilla’s complaint issuing a statement saying: "We share the concerns Mozilla has raised regarding the Windows 8 environment restricting user choice and innovation."
Another complaint raised by Mozilla is that even when limited to the Metro style applications, Microsoft’s has allowed themselves greater access to system APIs than third party developers.
"A browser running exclusively in Metro does not have the APIs necessary to compete with IE or any other modern browser," said Mozilla spokesman Asa Dotzler.
Microsoft’s move, they say, stops anyone else from building a competitive web browser for the Windows RT platform.
One might also suggest that any OS launching which restricts third party application capabilities – particularly that of web browsers – may just have a hard time against the likes of more established mobile operating systems. Then again, it doesn’t seem to have hurt iOS any.