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There’s a ridiculous dust-up going on today over Microsoft’s plans for Internet Explorer and other Web browsers on Windows tablets.Mozilla started it this morning.
The complaint: on ARM-based tablets running the next version of Windows, only Internet Explorer will be allowed to run in the classic desktop mode that looks like traditional Windows. Other browsers will be forced to run in the new “Metro” interface, which was designed for touch screens.
Mozilla general counsel Harvey Anderson said this move “reduces competition and chills innovation.”
Google chimed in a few hours later, telling CNET, “We share the concerns Mozilla has raised regarding the Windows 8 environment restricting user choice and innovation.”
Keep in mind:
- You WILL be able to use other browsers on these tablets. Unlike the iPad, which doesn’t run Firefox or Chrome at all, you’ll be able to run browsers from other manufacturers on these Windows tablets. You simply won’t be able to run other browsers in desktop mode. (To be fair to Mozilla and Google, that does mean that IE will be able to run plug-ins and do certain other things, while competing browsers won’t. But remember: on the iPad you can’t even run Firefox or Chrome. Where’s the outrage?)
- Nobody is going to use desktop mode on these tablets, anyway. That’s overstating the case a little, but all third party apps will run ONLY in the Metro interface. Nearly every Microsoft app will run ONLY in the Metro interface. The only exceptions are IE, Office, and some Windows settings menus. Apart from people who spend a lot of time in Office, most users will never even SEE the desktop on these kinds of tablets.
- A whole other class of Windows tablets WILL run all browsers in desktop mode. This whole gripe applies only to ARM-based tablets. But Microsoft is also building Windows 8 for Intel-based computers — including Windows 8 tablets. If consumers REALLY want an alternative to Internet Explorer on their Windows tablets, and REALLY want to run it in desktop mode, they can buy a Windows 8 tablet!
- The legal precedent for this argument is shaky. Microsoft’s antitrust settlement in the U.S. referenced Intel-based PCs, as former Microsoft developer Hal Berenson pointed out. It defined the relevant market where Microsoft had a monopoly as “Intel-compatible PC operating systems.” ARM-based tablets are not Intel-compatible.
This is simply two competitors trying to make life more difficult for Microsoft by whining loudly and hoping regulators might take a close look.
Not that they shouldn’t have the right to try. Microsoft certainly tries to whip up controversy about Google at every opportunity.
But the rest of us should waste exactly zero time worrying about it.
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