Firefox on Windows on ARM - Microsoft Says No

| 31 Comments

Microsoft is trying to lock out competing browsers when it comes to Windows running on ARM chips. IE is allowed there but not Firefox or Chrome or Opera or any other competitive browser. This is bad for the Web.

Here's what's going on. For Windows on X86, Microsoft is giving other browsers basically the same privileges it gives IE. It's not great that you don't get those privileges (certain API access) unless you're the default browser and I think that's deeply unfair (a post for later,) but at least we're able to build a competitive browser and ship it to Windows users on x86 chips.

But on ARM chips, Microsoft gives IE access special APIs absolutely necessary for building a modern browser that it won't give to other browsers so there's no way another browser can possibly compete with IE in terms of features or performance.

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 -- remember this? I sure do.

Here's a PDF of the pages that Microsoft disappeared in the run-up to their anti-choice decisions for the Windows OS running on ARM chips. Windows Principles - Empowering Choice, Opportunity, and Interoperability (PDF)


update: The Wall Street Journal has a blog post up titled Microsoft Accused of Hindering Firefox Browser and Stephen Shankland has posted Microsoft bans Firefox on ARM-based Windows, Mozilla says at CNET. The FT has also just posted Microsoft hit with complaint over Windows 8.

update 2:I've got more to say about this here.

31 Comments

Would this violate any anti-trust issues? I think some of those rules are still in effect to force MS to be competitive, but I'm not too up on this so I'm not sure.

Forrest, click the link that he titled "this" (in "remember this? I sure do.").

It's to their PR announcement about those anti-trust rules expiring and microsoft promising to continue to act good even though they're not being forced to.

Forrest, Microsoft still has binding agreements with the Europeans about browser choice and this appears, to my non-lawyer eyes, to be a violation of those agreements. See the "Commitments" doc here http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/news/press/2009/dec09/12-16Statement.aspx

This isn't about choice, its about security and ms having to bear the brunt of badly coded sw by other vendors.
see my comment on the update2 link.

Matt, please offer links when making claims like that. Microsoft is allowing third party browsers on x86 processors but not ARM processors. That cannot be purely a security decision.

Also, regardless of what Microsoft claims is its reasoning, they cannot simply violate their anti-trust agreements.

- A

Also, in terms of features, IE will always lag, so no worries there. But a 3rd grade student can tell that "Microsoft has an extremely small market share in the tablet device segment and hence and hence any arguments about their trying to reduce competition would fall apart"
Since most of us consider Asa as a very reasonable voice, please stop giving the antitrust argument.
Not saying you're wrong, just saying that understand the logic behind their decision and try to change them there.

Matt, Microsoft made legally binding commitments around anti-trust. Those commitments don't go away because Microsoft wishes them away. None of the commitments talk about hardware (tablet or laptop, ARM or x86) but they all apply to "Windows". I encourage you to go read up on this before continuing to comment here.

That you don't understand this area very well is OK. Not everyone has the time to follow every issue closely. I, on the other hand, have followed this closely and have been involved with legal people on all sides of the issue. I don't expect you to have the knowledge that I or others paying attention to this do but I do expect you to refrain from spreading disinformation here.

- A

why does microsoft have to allow other browsers in a tablet OS which needs a tighter control on the experience as compared to a general desktop OS? in the same vein, why isn't FF up in arms that iOS doesnt allow them to write a browser targeting iPhone or iPad?

han, Windows is not "a tablet OS". It's "Windows" and it runs on servers, desktops, laptops, and tablets. It runs on ARM and it runs on Intel. There will be Intel tablets running it and there will be ARM laptops running it. Windows is Windows.

Microsoft made commitments that it would not advantage IE on Windows. Those are legally binding commitments and they say nothing about what hardware or form factors Windows is running on.

- A

I am a newbie ! so I want to understand why microsoft is wrong ?

why should ms have to bear the brunt of badly coded sw by other vendors ?

why does microsoft have to allow other browsers in a tablet OS which needs a tighter control on the experience as compared to a general desktop OS ?

why should firefox have google search as default which is indirectly killing microsoft with a THOUSAND WOUNDS ?

dont the public anyway have an option to reject windows and chose others like ubuntu or mac ?

is IE blocking non-microsoft or competitors websites ?

thank you.

"Windows is Windows".

Not quite. An x86 or x64 Windows program will not run on WOA without recompiling. Moreover, the set of APIs available for developing on both are not identical. It is similar to the situation with developing for Kindle and other Android tablets.

While there are obvious technical differences, I guess Asa means from a legal point of view Windows is one and the same.

Microsoft made some deep (legally binding) commitments a few years ago regarding similar issues with earlier versions of Windows.

Drake, so MS restricts access to APIs that are fundamental for the task, and you say it's fault of the guys who develop Firefox?

Can someone post back the specific APIs Microsoft is restricting access to?

Define "fundamental" and why it wasn't so on iOS.

The aforementioned suggested that creation of working, viable browsers is possible even under architectural restrictions. Availability of or licencing more APIs would only allow extra room for optimization, but not otherwise prevent creation or execution of apps.


"Can someone post back the specific APIs Microsoft is restricting access to?"

Better yet, how exactly would any traditional functions of a browser be completely prevented (its easy to find ways to argue X functions being affected one way, though workarounds are available or the functions not being critical).

"Also, regardless of what Microsoft claims is its reasoning, they cannot simply violate their anti-trust agreements."

You admonish Matt for not providing links to support his statements. Yet you claim MS is violating their anti-trust agreements - a very serious charge indeed - without offering any links to prove it.

Also, it's interesting that you guys didn't say anything about iOS doing something very similar, even though they now dominate the tablet market. But when MS does it you drag out the now tired and well worn "anti-trust" card.

i still don't see any response on why this isnt an issue with iOS? they don't allow the browser to be replaced, why isn't the freedom of users in question there?

as far as "Windows is Windows", yes Windows x86 running on servers, desktops, even tablets will allow any browser to be used, but the specific tablet version doesnt allow.

Hari, Apple is not a convicted monopolist that has legally binding commitments to not block access to browser-related APIs like Microsoft.

- A

Microsoft still allows access to APIs in the area they were found to be monopolist? I dont see how this extends to area they aren't a monopoly. I see this more a reaction based on your hatred or whatever negative reaction for MS rather than based on genuine concern of user freedom (because if it was that, then FF would be up in arms with iPad rather than yet to be released tablet OS)

Microsoft has said that no 3rd party software will run on the desktop in Windows RT and FireFox is just one example of this.

I think you could make a case that if no 3rd party apps run on the desktop in Windows RT then Windows RT is a very different product from Windows on Intel hardware.

Microsoft has 0 percent market share with this Windows RT product so it does not have a monopoly position.

This is not very different from Windows Phone where FireFox doesn't run either.

Gruber has an interesting question in his take on the issue:

--snip--
What if Windows 8 for ARM, instead of being called “Windows RT”, were instead called, say, “Metro OS”? Would that make a difference? Is Dotzler arguing that Microsoft should not be permitted to ship a version of Windows that locks out third-party browsers, or that Microsoft should not be permitted to ship any OS that locks out third-party browsers?
--snip--

Anyone?

Asa, so your argument with respect to the same restrictions on iOS is that it's ok for Apple to do so just because they are not a convicted monopolist?

This is a strange argument. The dominant tablet platform is iOS and you're locked out of there by Apple and somehow thats ok. But WindowsRT which has 0% marketshare...that you whine about.

Sheesh.

The point is that Microsoft has legally binding agreements they signed onto at the conclusion of the antitrust finding. You could perhaps argue that Apple's behaving like a monopoly company in the tablet space, call for the DOJ to file suit and perhaps, if they win, force Apple to agree to some or all of the same terms, but that hasn't happened for Apple. It has happened for Microsoft.

Unfair? Maybe; but fairness really isn't the issue. You can't argue that they are identical situations because they aren't. If Apple ends up signing an antitrust agreement that they later violate (or appear to violate, or etc.) then you'd have a better case that they're equivalent circumstances.

I think it is a really bad think, but I think that there are technology reasons in the background, just Microsoft failed to communicate them.

My reasoning is:
- If they wanted to block others they would do the same with x86 version
- Microsoft doesn't sell any of its classic software on ARM I can guess the only reason to do that is that it is too complicated to convert
- ARM is clearly intended only for home tablet use, otherwise why would they skip a chance to sell Office apps and give away them for free...

"I think it is a really bad think"

I was typing this on mobile, last think is sufficient and confusing, one can think I wanted to say Asa's opinion was bad...

i think there will be a performance test that apps has to pass to get into winrt

@wchanley & Mozilla:

Remember that the DOJ antitrust case involved ONLY Intel-powered PC meaning x86 architecture so the ARM architecture has no relevance to this DOJ case. Likewise, the DOJ case has since expired on May 12, 2011. Quote from wiki:

"The plaintiffs alleged that Microsoft abused monopoly power on Intel-based personal computers in its handling of operating system sales and web browser sales." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Microsoft

Apple's restrictions on iOS browser are MUCH more restrictive than Microsoft, and yet you and Mozilla are not complaining loudly to the DOJ and EU. Why is there this double standard? Plus, Mozilla, Google, and Opera are NOT restricted in x86 Windows 8. Last time we looked:

Apple' iOS marketshare: 90%+
Microsoft Windows RT marketshare: 0%

And here's a comparison of Apple's iOS and Windows RT:

Microsoft Windows RT:
- You can write your own browser HTML/JavaScript engines but you cannot use JIT.
- You can use the built-in Trident HTML engine and the built-in Chakra engine with JIT .

Apple iOS:
- You can not use your HTML/JavaScript engines.
- You must use the built-in WebKit HTML engine.
- You must use the built-in but older Nitro JavaScript engine that does NOT support JIT. Only Safari is allowed to use the newer Nitro engine with JIT.

Where isn't there MORE outrages with Apple? Why hasn't Mozilla and Google filed lawsuit and complaints to DOJ and EU about this behaviors on Apple? When can I download Firefox and Chrome for the iPad and iPhone?

@Asa: So when can we start installing Chrome, Firefox, and Opera Mobile on iOS?

@Asa: Can you explain to me the differences, if any, between Microsoft's and Apple's policies regarding third-party browsers on Windows RT and iOS, respectively?

Why have Mozilla not gone after Apple when it was locked out of iOS? Instead, Mozilla only dejectedly gave up on iOS. Microsoft is painted as the poster boy of monopolies, but what about Apple's stranglehold in the tablet market?

Meaning, it's easier to go after Microsoft than Apple, so let's not spend the effort to go after Apple.

Monthly Archives