Microsoft playing dirty again, plans to ban Firefox on ARM-based Windows 8 PCs and tablets

by: AdrianMay 10, 2012

firefox vs internet explorer

Although for many it might be a model worth following, Microsoft has a longstanding tradition of not only discouraging competition, but trying to eliminate it by any means possible. That includes dirty, unorthodox, and sometimes even illegal moves through which they’ve managed to monopolize the desktop operating system market, and, for a long while back in the ‘90s and early ‘2000s, the browser market.

Internet Explorer was practically the only browsing solution users could possibly “choose” until 2004, when Mozilla launched Firefox. Not only was the browsing market situation unhealthy and unnatural, but as history has proven, it also delayed some technological advancements.

While we all thought that the browser monopolies were a thing of the past, Microsoft is apparently trying to once again eliminate competition by all means, including dirty moves. At least that’s what Mozilla officials are claiming, saying that Microsoft will prohibit Firefox from upcoming Windows 8 computers and tablets using ARM processors.

“They’re trying to make a new version of their operating system which denies their users choice, competition, and innovation.” said Harvey Anderson, Mozilla’s general counsel, in a recent blog post, adding that “making IE the only browser on that platform is a complete return to the digital dark ages when there was only one browser on the Windows platform.”

As most of you might know, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has been on a downward slope for the past few years, but is still number one in worldwide usage, beating both Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, according to market share reports.

However, recent estimates have shown that IE is no longer the most used browser in many important countries, including the United States. Furthermore, global desktop stats from StatCounter show that Internet Explorer has a mere 3% lead over Chrome in April 2012 (34% – 31%), while Firefox is itself pretty close, with a 10% handicap against Microsoft’s browser. It’s no wonder therefore that Microsoft is doing its best to prevent competition from taking the lead in such a high stakes battle.

Getting back to the issue at hand, we should mention that Microsoft has declined to respond to Harvey Anderson’s claims, which means that we might not know the whole truth on the matter as both sides see it. Also, Anderson admits that Microsoft might not end up forbidding the use of other browsers besides IE on their future machines and that they “could have subsequent releases that allow third-party browsers.”

If, however, Microsoft will choose to fight this battle in such an “unmanly” fashion, Mozilla will surely not refuse the fight. “Sometimes they need some pressure. If it turns out to be legal pressure, that could be the thing.” said Harvey Anderson, suggesting that his company is not afraid of suing Microsoft for abusive conduct.

Microsoft’s Windows 8 could be released as soon as next fall, which is probably when we’ll know for sure if ARM-based PCs and tablets running the new OS will in fact only support Internet Explorer. It will also be interesting to see Google’s reaction to this whole shenanigan, as Google’s Chrome browser is the runner-up with the most chances to dethrone Internet Explorer.

Could we be heading towards a long legal war between Microsoft, on one side, and Mozilla and Google, on the other? If so, do you think that Microsoft has any chance of leaving unscathed?

  • roger

    i swear to you microsoft, if you eliminate firefox/chrome on your windows 8, i’m officially leaving the pc platform and fully transitioning into android, google-pc, or even try a mac.

    • AppleFUD

      Yeah, there’s no way I can live with ONLY IE. . . not going to happen. I’ll go Linux if Android can’t handle the work I need.

      Funny thing is, how many writers over the past couple of years have been saying that MS is so much more ethical now. Yeah, right. . .

  • Oliver Petruzel

    If MS pulls an Apple and tries to filter or regulate 3rd-party apps with an iron fist, or through the use of ambiguous “rules” in some sort of ridiculous submission process, there’s no chance in hell I’ll ever pick up one of their ARM-based products.

    And, even worse, if this unacceptable practice ever migrates over to the x86-based side of the house, I’ll ditch them completely and never look back…

  • Josh Lumley

    If Microsoft actually goes through with this, they will only succeed in making Chrome that much stronger and giving it even more market share. It will probably hurt Firefox, but it’ll undoubtedly help Chrome.

  • Benjo

    Although I should be used to the low quality reporting on this website by now I am still amazed at just how little the writers here seem to know about technology and the IT industry as a whole. When you say “Internet Explorer was practically the only browsing solution users could possibly “choose” until 2004, when Mozilla launched Firefox”, do you mean apart from Netscape Communicator? You know that little browser which only dominated the browser market through most of the 90’s and which still held a share of the market in the early 2000’s as big as Firefox does now? It’s not like the browser wars between Netscape and Microsoft were a minor event in Internet/IT history and development. Essentially Firebox is the successor of Netscape and users have always had alternatives from Explorer.

    It’s also wrong to imply that Microsoft’s dominance came only from dirty tactics. Although Netscape was initially much better and the primary reason why MS gained so much of Netscape’s share was due to IE’s integration into Windows, by 2004 IE was actually the superior product in terms of stability and speed. MS was heavily criticized for integrating IE into windows but basically that it was everyone does now; Android and Apple both include a lot of stock functions (browser, email, document editing, etc) that no one would even consider as being a dirty tactic now. The onus is on specialist developers to provide products superior to the stock ones and that was what MS rivals were unable to do in the 2002-2004 period.

    • AppleFUD

      2004 Netscape market share was 2.09%

      The argument here isn’t that MS has IE installed with their OS but rather, NO ONE else can create a browser for Win8–ARM with the same functionality because MS will NOT allow access to the APIs within Windows that IE will have access to.

      That’s just plain shitty and has nothing to do with other vendors being able to produce quality products. They simply cannot produce a quality product for a Win8-ARM device because MS will NOT allow them the same access that IE has to the system.

      That is far far different than including “stock apps.”

  • Benjo

    MS is also not banning alternative browsers from windows 8. Windows 8 has 2 modes, classic and metro, with classic running the older win32 APIs. The x86 version of Windows 8 will have no restrictions to either mode’s APIs so existing browsers should be able to run as using the win32 ones. However the ARM version of Windows 8 restricts the use of the windows classic APIs; this doesn’t mean other browsers are banned but instead means that companies will have to write specific versions using the Metro APIs.

    There could be a number of reasons why MS is doing this. Of course they will have an advantage initially in that IE can be ported more easily. However they may also be trying to ensure that developers support the Metro interface and APIs which will likely be the primary interface for ARM devices (i.e. tablets). Either way browser alternatives will be available on the platform.

  • Neal

    MS should also require Norton, because it’s the worse “Antivirus” program.

  • Will

    Talk about setting yourself up to fail. Microsoft need to stop telling people what they want and listen to what they actually do want. Win 8 has soo much potential, but they’re going to ruin it if they keep heading down this path.