According to reports and reliable rumor sources, Windows RT will offer a touchscreen centric tiled ‘Metro’ UI that only runs apps purchased from Microsoft’s iTunes style app store, in addition to a heavily-restricted ‘desktop’ mode called “Windows Classic” that will run only code created with Microsoft’s APIs.
Harvey Anderson, Mozilla’s General Counsel, and Asa Dotzler, Director of Firefox, blogged these accusations late Wednesday.
“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,” Mr. Anderson wrote. “Windows RT 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.”
“Why does this matter to users? Quite simply because Windows on ARM -as currently designed- restricts user choice, reduces competition and chills innovation.”
Mr. Anderson warned, “Microsoft’s browser practices regarding Windows 8 Metro signal an unwelcome return to the digital dark ages where users and developers didn’t have browser choices.”
Mr. Dotlzer’s tone was more confrontational; “Microsoft is trying to lock out competing browsers when it comes to Windows running on ARM chips”.
“This is in direct violation of the promises they made to developers, users, and OEMs about browser choice in documents which mysteriously disappeared from Microsoft’s site,” blogged Mr. Dotlzer, referring to Microsoft’s announcement in 2006 that it would be self-governing future development of Windows based on principals of transparency and interoperability post-expiration of the U.S antitrust ruling.
The Mozilla Foundation has yet to file a formal complaint with U.S regulators. Mr. Anderson said that “rushing for regulatory relief” is not the Mozilla Foundation’s first priority, though it would act if it had to.
Google as also weighed in on the issue, siding with Mozilla.
“We share the concerns Mozilla has raised regarding the Windows 8 environment restricting user choice and innovation,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement. “We’ve always welcomed innovation in the browser space across all platforms and strongly believe that having great competitors makes us all work harder. In the end, consumers and developers benefit the most from robust competition.”
Microsoft has declined to comment publicly on the accusations from Mozilla and Google.