Mozilla just blasted Microsoft for blocking third-party browsers in the “classic” mode of its Windows tablets.
Some next-generation Windows tablets will run on a different type of processor, called ARM, than desktops use. The tablets will have Microsoft’s new tile-based “Metro” interface, but also allow you to access a classic environment that looks nearly identical to Windows 7 on desktops.
The Metro Interface looks like this:
According to Mozilla, Microsoft will only allow its own Internet Explorer to run in classic mode. Other browsers can still use the Metro interface on tablets.
As you can imagine, Mozilla and Google are not happy about this. In a blog post, Mozilla’s general counsel, Harvey Anderson, writes:
Why does this matter to users? Quite simply because Windows on ARM -as currently designed- restricts user choice, reduces competition and chills innovation. By allowing only IE to perform the advanced functions of a modern Web browser, third-party browsers are effectively excluded from the platform. This matters for users of today’s tablets and tomorrow’s PCs. While ARM chipsets may be primarily built into phones and tablets today, in the future ARM will be significant on the PC hardware platform as well. These environments currently have intense browser competition that benefits both users and developers. When you expand the view of the PC to cover a much wider range of form factors and designs as Microsoft and others forecast, it’s easy to imagine Windows running on ARM in laptops, tablets, phones, and a whole range of devices. That means users will only have one browser choice whenever there’s a Windows ARM environment.
It’s a very Apple-like move from Microsoft.
Apple famously blocks third-party browsers from being the iPad’s default app, which has always bothered us. The iPad is great, but when it comes to choosing the best default browser, email app, or calendar app for your needs, you’re forced to use Apple’s product and Apple’s product only.
Now Microsoft is pulling the same stunt with its tablets.
At the end of the day, the move prevents third parties from making the best apps for you. We’re just as concerned about Microsoft’s move as Mozilla is.