Mozilla, Google Take Microsoft Back to the Future With Browser Complaint

Mozilla, Google Take Microsoft Back to the Future With Browser Complaint – Microsoft Argues That Security Is Core to Its Strategy
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Microsoft argues that security is core to its strategy with the Windows RT desktop. ZDNet’s Ed Bott builds a case for this argument in a post, saying the requirement for Metro-only apps on Windows RT eliminates many of the programming tricks used by developers, which could also lead to security issues.

“The trouble with those tricks is that they also enable unreliable, memory-hogging, performance-draining apps,” Bott said. He added:

By restricting apps to the Metro environment, Windows RT will prevent those sorts of problems. It will also have a completely new security model that effectively knee-caps most forms of modern malware. Forcing all third-party apps to run in the sandboxed Metro environment and restricting delivery of Metro style apps to the Windows Store eliminates the most common vector for malware.

Moreover, many observers argue that Apple does the very same thing in restricting browser access to iOS in its iPad environment. However, Dotzler argues, “Apple is not a convicted monopolist that has legally binding commitments to not block access to browser-related APIs like Microsoft.”

“We have not heard Microsoft articulate this formally, I don’t think, but presumably Microsoft feels that in order to compete with the iPad they have to create a walled-garden environment that mimics it and that x86 PC Windows 8 systems are out there with a more traditional and open model,” Al Hilwa, an analyst with IDC told eWEEK. “It is hard to tell how well that will work out for Windows RT, except that it is unlikely to help sell more units of the ARM devices in its early days.”

Indeed, Dotzler’s argument tends to ring a bit hollow when one looks at market share and the direction the business is taking. Apple has a clear and substantial lead in the tablet space and is not likely to be caught by Microsoft or anybody else. Yet, as Hilwa says, what’s to say what will happen beyond the “early days.” Some industry observers say they expect Windows 8 to be a flop. Or it could be a major hit. It seems like Mozilla is hedging its bets and hoping for the latter.

But a key question is how far are they willing to push it? Will they go knocking on the EU’s or DOJ’s doors?

“We encourage Microsoft to remain firm on its user choice principles,” Anderson said in his post. “Excluding third-party browsers contradicts Microsoft’s own published Principles that users and developers have relied upon for years.”

Going further, Anderson finished his post by adding:

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 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.

We will have to see if this encouragement will suffice. Perhaps Microsoft will give in and decide to let Mozilla, Google and others into the Windows RT desktop. Or maybe they’ll decide to level the playing field by taking IE out of it.

In a separate ZDNet post, Mary Jo Foley says, “I agree with my ZDNet colleague Ed Bott that the chances that Microsoft is suddenly going to allow Firefox or Chrome to run on the Desktop in Windows RT are close to zero.”

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