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Mozilla: Microsoft bans Firefox on ARM-based Windows (cnet.com)
205 points by vibrunazo on May 10, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 68 comments

I'm getting really, really tired of the nonstop doucherocketry displayed by all the major tech corporations lately:

1. Apple gratuitously locking down every last detail of their platform and cudgeling competitors with that control.

2. Microsoft playing me-too to Apple as fast as their little brother legs can carry them.

3. Oracle buying Java and going patent troll.

4. Google basically lying about the reasons for their real names G+ policy and working hard to be the one ring that binds the net.

All of these companies produce some technically excellent products but I have to hold my nose to use any of them. The sad thing is, I think all of these companies could succeed solely on the strength of their work.

Amen, but this has been going on since the beginning of tech ... look at the CP/M vs DOS war. It seems to me that Apple moved the cheese a bit with iOS + proprietary hardware + app store, and everyone has been scrambling to catch up since then.

Firefox, or any web browser getting kicked out of mobile or future desktop computers, means open web is in danger. So it is not a problem for Firefox, it will be a problem for every one who has a stake in an open world wide web.

strength of work != Oracle

They are the king of doucherocketry. Just less noticeable because it happens in the boardroom and not the living room.

Could you clarify #4?

I don't mean to contest it. I feel like I've lost touch on much of the public communication since I started working there.

Corporations are sociopathic by design. Don't hate Microsoft, Apple or Google (the players), hate the way we do business and our economic model (the game).

Re. 1 and 2, what exactly are Apple and Microsoft doing to their desktop OS to accomplish that? I'm not seeing any evidence of that happening at all.

Both desktop OSes are moving in the direction of the mobile ones (app stores, signed code, sandboxes, etc.). For the moment, there are escape hatches, but they are already disfavored alternatives (no promotion, no access to some new APIs, etc.) and, given past behavior, I wouldn't count on the escape hatches remaining open forever.

On OSX, your program won't be allowed to use certain APIs unless you limit your program in other ways and get Apple's explicit approval and give Apple 30% of your gross revenue. e.g. http://mjtsai.com/blog/2012/01/25/pdfpen-and-icloud/

True, but those APIs were never available without those kinds of restrictions.

The title of this story is highly misleading. MS have said since around september last year that if you want to target Windows on ARM specifically, then you have to write Metro style apps, using the new WinRT API. Existing desktop apps are not supported - you need to rewrite them. And this applies to all software developers, not just Mozilla/Firefox.

"The ARM version of Windows 8 will not support desktop applications. So if you want to write an app and you want it to work on any version of Windows then it has to be a Metro app." -- http://stackoverflow.com/a/7426405/507950

The issue is that Microsoft will not give access to the API's on ARM systems that are required to do this.


"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."

Okay, didn't know that - that sounds nuts on microsoft's part.

It's a strange move - no Chrome and Firefox is a big turn-off for me.

Yeah having a decent choice of browsers is important.. Android would probably be leading the way so far.

That's all great, but WinRT does not appear to have the necessary APIs to support a third party browser. There's some detailed reading available at [1]. The tl;dr is that APIs like "allocate some memory here, and allow me to execute it later" that one would need to write a JIT are not available to applications in WinRT.

[1] https://wiki.mozilla.org/Windows_8_Integration

This article is incorrect. Apple doesn't bar loading webpages with anything other their own webkit. What they bar is interpreting code that isn't included with the app except inside the include webkit with the system. This is how opera mobile works on the iPhone (all external javascript executed server side and the dom is rendered locally on the device)

There is a clear difference between downloading and opening documents vs downloading and executing code in Apple's book. (If it's turing complete basically). They just don't want you downloading new functionality into the app without them getting to test it and approve it.

It's just really hard to write a web browser that doesn't use javascript. You might be able to hide a little UIWebView off somewhere executing the downloaded javascript but something about violating the spirt of the rule makes me think Apple might still say no.

Long long ago Apple didn't even allow other webkit based browsers. They loosened up to apps replicating built in features though over time.

Now Microsoft's rule is a little different. It's worse even. They just seem to want other browsers either way.

> They just don't want you downloading new functionality into the app without them getting to test it and approve it.

This sounds a little foggy to me. Why exactly wouldn't they want that? What exact kind of harmful functionality would they not be able to predict a third party JavaScript engine be able to cause, that webkit cannot?

I'm not convinced that this isn't just another excuse to stop competition. Similar to the whole, amazon cannot sell ebooks "for the good of our users" rule.

I'm sure that stopping competition isn't a drawback from Apple's perspective, but the official reason is that they don't want developers doing an end run around their app store to get code on the device.

I think it's because they want everything to get approved. Otherwise you'll have "Web app stores" that sneak in Porn apps or something after Apple's passed them.

> If it's turing complete basically

Not really. CSS is Turing complete, technically. So is XSLT, which doesn't even need user interaction for the computations. What Apple is banning is something a lot vaguer than "Turing complete", and worst of all they don't even clearly define what it is. They've made it clear that a JS JIT is completely out, and a JS interpreter is probably out (though there have been other interpreters sometimes allowed and sometimes banned, seemingly at random). So actually writing something browser-like is likely to run afoul of Apple randomly deciding that it's not OK even if it's crippled in various ways like Opera Mini.

>This is how opera mobile works on the iPhone

Opera Mobile doesn't run on iPhone, only Opera Mini does.

>Now Microsoft's rule is a little different. It's worse even. They just seem to want other browsers either way.

Err what? Do you have any reference as to how it's worse? Windows Phone with similar rules allows browsers to use IE's engine, just like iOS allows browsers to embed the Webkit based Safari engine.

I find the justification on both Apple's and MS's side to be quite telling.

Apple - we don't want you executing code we haven't reviewed.

MS - only we can understand and code securely enough for this.

That's their stated position, but might not be their internal position. Microsoft sees that Apple has done it, and now they have a valid position to do it as well. Look at all the things Microsoft did in the 90s when they were dominant. They got sued for anti-trust and lost, and paid a dear price for it. Apple was not a monopoly in any market at that time, so they took a page out of Microsoft's book knowing they would not be sued over it. Apple could create vendor-lock-in, they could bundle whatever software they wanted, they could only allow their software on their hardware and anyone who tries to go outside that could be sued into bankruptcy. All perfectly legal since Apple wasn't a monopoly, and this helped them gain marketshare quickly.

Warning: speculative prediction follows.

Now that Apple is the monopoly in the mobile world, they are the ones who have to answer to anti-competitive practices. Microsoft is what Apple was in the 90s. Microsoft right now is where Apple was in 2001; making a clean break from the days of old, using the same tricks the dominant player is under legal investigation for. If history repeats itself, Apple will be pinned for the same things Microsoft was, and Microsoft will be able to leverage that for a fair bit of marketshare.

End speculation.

Whether or not the above comes to play, Microsoft wouldn't be pushing Windows 8 and WoA if Apple hadn't laid down the red carpet for this kind of behavior. Microsoft's internal position is likely more along the lines of "lockdowns are fair game again!"

I think this might be the end to the open web.

It's clear that more and more people will use devices like iPads

So when both Msft and Apple ban other browsers and their app stores are making a ton of money for them. The next logical step would be to make even more money from the app stores and slowly drop support for the browsers to do this.

I hope that Chrome OS takes off. I wish that Google and Facebook would team up together on this and make it happen.

Thanks for the reminder Microsoft. I was starting to feel some sympathy for you.

To me, this isn't about microsoft vs. Mozilla. This is about proprietary companies vs. open source companies. Open source is all good, but nearly all of the machines we use to access that open source software is run on proprietary company hardware/software. If apple or microsoft decided one day to bar other OS' from being installed on their systems, well tough shit. Until the people make a movement to make them feel their mistakes, proprietary companies are gonna continue doing whatever they fuck they want.

The number of ARM-based Windows machines must be miniscule.

Yeah, for an operating system that hasn't been released yet they're really not selling very well. Oh, wait.

Sorry, I was suggesting that it's extremely unlikely it'll ever gain any traction when it is released.

People don't want windows running their tablet/phone/media center.

That might be true if by "People" you are reffering to you.

Can you cite some figures? I don't know anyone that has purchased a windows phone or tablet.

For example http://blogs.computerworld.com/19966/windows_phone_market_sh...

(Windows phone market share is so small, Nielsen don't list it separately).

Tech pundits are not very good windsocks for what people actually want. Remember the launch of the iPod? The iPhone? The iPad? Android? All were predicted to imminent doom. It's especially hard when salesmen are telling people what they want.

For the record, my name is Freeman. You now know someone who owns a Windows Phone. And when I bought it last year, the salesman at AT&T flat out refused to sell it to me until I called a manager, convinced I was making a huge mistake.

And of course you don't know anyone who has purchased a Windows tablet.

It's not a tech pundit, it's market data.

Yes, maybe after 10+ years of having negligable market share Microsoft will suddenly pull something awesome out of the bag and people will suddenly forget about the horrible experience of using Windows on the desktop, and start wanting that on their other devices.

But I doubt it. The most surprising thing about this story is that mozilla care about it.

That was before the Lumia 900, which was outselling everything else on Amazon its first weekend, and still holds the #8 and #14 spots https://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Cell-Phones-Accessories-... as well as the #1 and #2 spots on the "top-rated" list. https://www.amazon.com/gp/top-rated/wireless I have one, my brother has one, and everyone I show it to thinks it's awesome.

Whoops, wrong first link. https://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Cell-Phones-Accessories-... and 3 of the top 10 best-rated smartphones on AT&T right now are Win7 phones http://www.wireless.att.com/cell-phone-service/cell-phones/p...

wtf, the search results time out? haha just use http://www.wireless.att.com/cell-phone-service/cell-phones/p... and you'll have to sort them by "avg rating" to see what I mean.

What, a Microsoft vs. Netscape war? Impossible!

Hmm. With the whole mobile web basically coded for a version of webkit or other - the real question is will people with Windows ARM tablets see their websites broken like they do when using Windows Phone 7x?

That'd be bad for Microsoft.

thankyou for spamming hacker news with a rehash of a previous article

I am not holding my breath to see the following posts:

1) Mozilla complaining about not being able to run Firefox on iOS or on Chromebooks even though the situation is exactly the same as with Windows RT.

2) IE team complaining that Firefox is the only browser allowed by Mozilla on Boot2Gecko.

Firefox isn't the only browser allowed by Mozilla on Boot2Gecko. Not only would that be permissible in our web store (as far as I'm aware), but you could freely distribute it on your own without having to jump through hoops. That is one of the points of the project, and is very much by design. If the IE team wants to build a new browser for B2G, I'd love to see it!

(Disclosure: I'm a B2G team member but these are my views, etc etc...)

OT: daeken, great to see you're now working on B2G! I'm going to their hackathon in London this weekend - can't wait to see a B2G device.

Daeken, I thought the only thing users could download to their B2G phones were web applications. There is zero support for native apps, like alternative browsers, right?

Yeah, I'm struggling to see how a browser could possibly be implemented in another browser and expect to have competitive performance. Especially when Gecko will be running native code, and any other browser would not be.

He meant that anyone is free to take the B2G source code and modify it to boot into another browser.

So the answer is, basically, "No, you can't."

Native apps on Boot2Gecko are web applications, by definition. And you're free to implement alternative browsers on top of that -- even if you're still using Gecko underlying everything, you can give a vastly different experience. Arguing that they can't run their own engine code is a technical issue, not a business/political issue.

Also, one of the key things about Boot2Gecko is that it's intended to be reimplemented. You could make a Boot2IE phone or Boot2Chromium phone; you swap out the low level but keep everything on top of it the same. Everything is built on real web standards that are free to be implemented by all. It's truly open, top to bottom and bottom to top.

I think the original question was more like: can a third party like Opera or Microsoft port their browser to B2G and make it available through the B2G store. As an app.

The answer is no because third party B2G apps cannot be written in C or C++.

Whoa, I follow the B2G project and this would be news to me if true... are you saying someone can right a browser for B2G that JITs JavaScript to native code?

Hi, I'm on the mobile Firefox team at Mozilla. We have been talking about the iOS situation for years now [1], though it's not likely to make the news these days because nothing has changed. Windows is also different because there are questions about how previous agreements with the US DOJ apply to Windows desktop on ARM hardware, so the questions facing Microsoft are different than the ones facing Apple.

[1] For example, see http://techcrunch.com/2010/12/27/firefox-iphone-2/

On 1, Mozilla may have been more quiet than they should have been, but I don't think anyone was in doubt about how they felt (and I do know they had a debate about whether even do Firefox Home for iOS, all things considered).

On 2, I'd bet that Firefox won't be the only browser allowed on Boot2Gecko. I'm not saying that getting an alternative browser on there will be pretty (the browser would have to provide an unusual amount of support infrastructure, most likely), but, given Mozilla's principles, I don't expect them to actively block you from doing so (the way Microsoft and Apple do).

Long time FF supporter here; Actually Apple not allowing Firefox fully on iOS paved the way for Win8 doing the same.

2) Antitrust is not only about whether a platform denies competition. It also takes into account market share.

Chromebooks and Boot2Gecko have minuscule marketshare. However, you can root chromebooks and B2G is all open code, so nothing is stopping Microsoft from developing for those linux-based platforms if they want to.

In order to begin to have a valid complaint, Microsoft would have to offer IE for full-userland linux desktops and laptops, which they haven't done.

If those stripped down linux platforms became near-monopolies, and if they didn't have open specifications, under the Sherman Act they could conceivably be required to open their APIs for other browser makers to compete.

In a world without Android, Apple might be in danger of violating antitrust law with iOS development restrictions, if they had a near monopoly on smartphones and tablets.

And Windows RT has how much marketshare?

Just because it has Windows in the name doesn't mean that Windows RT is the same as Windows. It won't run a single app runs on Windows 7. How is it even remotely similar?

Two reasons:

1. Microsoft is already suspect because of antitrust violations in the past.

2. Their development tools will certainly eventually allow simultaneous windows x86/amd64/arm builds, which could allow them to bootstrap windows RT marketshare.

stop whining mozilla, create your own os and make your own rules...or go pursue chrome os, they don't allow ff as well.

Yes, Mozilla is doing B2G. This does not excuse MS doing this.

It'd be awesome if Microsoft then complains about how people can't run IE on B2G. Not that that's ever going to happen.

Given that IE hasn't run on anything other than Windows since version 5 (when it ran on Solaris, HP-UX, Xenix, and, I've heard Linux as well - up to 5.5 on Mac OS), I'd say they probably don't have any plans for it.

Not natively, though IE6 ran on Linux via WINE. The "ies4linux" script actually made the experience only slightly nauseating.

Useful for those who found themselves trapped on corporate Intranets based on MSIE-only apps.

No, I'm talking about native ports.

Though IE8 and possibly IE9 work in Wine, yes, that's not what I meant. I meant that Microsoft was actively developing and supporting native ports of IE 3 through 5 on Solaris, HP-UX, Xenix, and maybe possibly Linux (I couldn't find evidence, but I remember seeing something about it.)

I don't think it ever ran on Linux, I remember the Solaris and MacOS versions though.

For crying out loud, this comparison is apples to oranges, will people please stop making it? Microsoft have closed source operating systems and are leveraging that to stop competition. Mozilla is developing an open platform where anyone can modify it to run on a different browser.

So, if they throw you out of your city, you wont "whine" and go build your own?

I agree with your basic arguement reptile83. Companies that start whining are on their way down. A company that looks at how to overcome obstacles or create new opportunities is who succeeds. Thats how they started, now that they are large and employees start running the show in various ways, out comes the whining.

Where's the entrepreneurial spirit?

A little history would help here...

Mozilla are a non-profit. They came into existence because round about the year 2000, Microsoft had a monopoly in browsers and operating systems.

It's hard to express how extreme this was, if you didn't live through it. Basically, the rest of the IT industry was being strangled to death.

Two companies turned things round - Google and Apple. Both depended on, and encouraged, the open web. Google fundamentally built all their products on the web, and Apple relied on the web being open so that OSX and iOS could compete with Windows. (Would people really have brought the original iPhone if 99% of websites hadn't worked on it?)

The only reason the web was good enough to allow new companies like Google and Apple to thrive against Microsoft, was because of Firefox (which created Mozilla-the-non-profit).

Firefox was THE project. It was a non-profit project. It could not have been a for-profit project (well actually, someone like IBM or Sun or the like could have done it in a visionary way, but they didn't).

Firefox was basically run by volunteers, including a massive, complex marketing campaign, which involved not just geeks persuading their friends and parents to upgrade to Firefox, but also people asking website owners to make their websites work with web standards, and hence with Firefox (at the time many websites only worked on Internet Explorer).

So apedley, your criticism utterly misses the mark. Sometimes there are factors outside of the control of the entrepreneur. Microsoft's monopoly of the operating system and web browser was such a factor.

It can happen again. (Likely some kind of oligopoly of Apple and Google :)

I don't dispute the fact that firefox did a great job but you are missing the mark on what their actual issue is and it's not Microsoft.

I think we shall agree to disagree on this one :)

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