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It's OK for Apple to block Firefox, but wrong when Microsoft does it (computerworld.com)
296 points by tomkin on May 11, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 227 comments

A lot of people, including the author of this article, seem to think it's unfair that Mozilla is not giving equal complaint time to both platforms. That's the fundamental issue here.

Maybe, all things being equal, that would be a fair complaint but all things are not equal.

First of all, the limitations of iOS and app store are well known and retread at least once a month on HN since the site opened. Mozilla certainly did complain about iOS years ago and decided ultimately to abandon the platform. We're talking about Windows now because Windows 8 is due to be released.

Secondly, Firefox's primary platform is Windows and they already have working version of Firefox for Windows 8 with a Metro UI for x86. Only a minor technical limitation keeps them from releasing it for ARM -- that's not true of iOS.

Lastly, there is a still a chance Microsoft might cave on this issue. We know from years of experience that Apple won't.

Post-lastly: there's the simple point that Firefox for Windows is an actual product that could be shipped near-immediately. There is no Firefix for iOS, precisely because Apple has never allowed it.

I think the broad point is valid though: Apple's platform control is no more morally justified than Microsoft's. And at least in the abstract they deserve equal scorn. But the specifics here are that Windows 8 on ARM won't run an app that can clearly be shipped (and will be for x86). That's a problem with a reasonable hope of being fixed, so it makes practical sense for Mozilla to whine about that first.

Post-post-lastly: it bears mentioning that if Safari was as bad as IE, Apple might draw more fire. It helps a lot to have a browser that doesn't lag the state of the art.

To the people who say "Where's the moral outrage" about Apple, I have to wonder if they haven't been paying attention for the last 4 years. Lots of people and organizations have led the charge against Apple.

It seems the only organization actively complaining about the limitations of Windows 8 right now is Mozilla. In terms of equal scorn, Microsoft hasn't gotten much scorn at all.

> There is no Firefix for iOS

Sure there is. It hasn't been worked on much precisely because Apple wouldn't allow it anyway, but Ted Mielczarek ported Firefox to iOS a while back. See https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=676585 and https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=680878 and https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=681602 and so forth.

Why don't they send that to Cydia?

Because that would imply support costs that are just not worth it, if nothing else? Just a guess; I'm not privy to these sorts of decisions.

It is open source free software. Anyone could send it to Cydia as iceweasel.


What you're missing here is that Apple bans everyone equally while Microsoft does not. What I mean by that is the App Store doesn't discriminate on an individual basis. Apple is generally consistent in their "unfairness". Looking at what Microsoft is doing, their decision to restrict Firefox immediately struck me as an anti-trust monopoly issue. They're not restricting Firefox on the basis of some policy that applies to everyone but singling out one piece of software.

The argument in this article is a red herring. This isn't about fairness. It plays on the whole Apple v. Microsoft thing and tries to drum up sympathy and or guilt by playing the "you're just hating on MS because it's trendy" card in a way. It really looks like Microsoft has decided to restrict Firefox capabilities on ARM devices so their browser can have a leg up and deliberately and negatively impact the user experience of Firefox on certain devices.

Framing this using Apple and it's policies/practices are an attempt at misdirection. If you take this attempt to play the Apple v. Microsoft card out of the equation and for a moment pretend Apple never banned FF and FF never even tried to get on iOS what you're left with is Microsoft unfairly discriminating against one company in an obvious attempt to stamp out any competition. It's a pretty cut and dry case of ant-trust once you weed out all the distractions.

Edit: clarified the first sentence of last paragraph. Added the words "Framing this using".

> What you're missing here is that Apple bans everyone equally while Microsoft does not.

You could not have this more backwards. The fundamental issue that Metro apps cannot write to executable memory pages. This is a fundamental security feature of both WinRT and of iOS. Browsers download code off the Internet JIT compile it to native code and execute it. This is what Firefox needs to do. It's not like Windows 8 is checking for Firefox.exe and refusing to load it.

What Mozilla wants is an exception to the normal rules for applications on ARM Windows 8.

Microsoft makes exceptions for their own applications (Office and IE) but that's it. These are the same sort of exceptions Apple make for their apps on iOS.

>What Mozilla wants is an exception to the normal rules for applications on ARM Windows 8.

i think where the frustration is coming from is that windows gave them exactly that exception on x86 windows 8. they created a special class of applications for third party browsers, that can run JIT'd and native code in metro mode. now, with ARM, they've decided to revoke that exception for no apparent reason other than "because we can", and it seems more than a little unfair.

It's not quite the same because Windows 8 x86 already lets you run every kind of Win32 application that has ever existed. The door is already wide open. Allowing Firefox to run in Metro mode with more compatibilities than the average Metro app actually changes very little.

It certainly more complicated than "because we can".

You don't think Apple decided to restrict third party browsers so their browser "can have a leg up?" (Yes, yes, I know the answer will come back "a unified browser is a better user experience". And my response is: why not let the market make that call?)

That sounds awfully naive. Apple certainly does protect its turf (c.f. banning Google Voice after approving dozens of VoIP apps) , and to argue otherwise is just silly.

"Yes, yes, I know the answer will come back "a unified browser is a better user experience". And my response is: why not let the market make that call?"

Looking at the continuing success of iOS, so far, the market isn't really shouting out loud that not allowing third party browsers is a good thing.

Also, I think there is a valid technical argument for not allowing multiple competing libraries on a mobile device: memory usage. All else being equal, if I have multiple apps, each using a HTML renderer, I would prefer them to share code, browser cache, etc, just as I would prefer all my applications to share their font rendering code, 3D graphics library, etc.

Someone arguing for inclusion of Firefox on iOS or Windows Should, IMO, put convincing arguments on the table why that "all else being equal" phrase does not hold.

> Looking at the continuing success of iOS, so far, the market isn't really shouting out loud that not allowing third party browsers is a good thing.

(I'm going to assume you mean bad thing.)

You can't infer that. The iPad is a huge collection of features (both software and hardware) that can only be bought as a whole. The fact that people buy the bundle doesn't mean they like all the features — it just means that the package as a whole is compelling. People don't have any reasonable option to buy a device that's just like an iPad except it supports third-party browsers.

I have bought software that I know to be outright buggy, and I didn't even return it. Does that mean the bugs don't bother me? No, it just means the benefit of the rest of the software is enough to (barely) outweigh the annoyance that the bugs cause.

> Looking at the continuing success of iOS, so far, the market isn't really shouting out loud that not allowing third party browsers is a good thing.

This frighteningly illogical statement comes up way too often. The existence/non-existence of third party browsers probably has very little influence on the success of iOS one way or the other. Success does not mean they did everything right and there is no room for improvement.

> I would prefer

I think that right there is the best argument that can be made for not locking it down so much. You used it twice in your reply. Clearly you value your preference. Why do others not get the same consideration?

<i>They're not restricting Firefox on the basis of some policy that applies to everyone but singling out one piece of software.</i>

What gives you that idea? The policies apply to every third party application on Windows-ARM.

>They're not restricting Firefox on the basis of some policy that applies to everyone but singling out one piece of software.

>Framing this using Apple and it's policies/practices are an attempt at misdirection. If you take this attempt to play the Apple v. Microsoft card out of the equation and for a moment pretend Apple never banned FF and FF never even tried to get on iOS what you're left with is Microsoft unfairly discriminating against one company in an obvious attempt to stamp out any competition. It's a pretty cut and dry case of ant-trust once you weed out all the distractions.

Zero third party applications with access to the Win32 API will be allowed on Windows RT. You're way off base here.


Was your post meant to be sarcastic? I've seen some anti-Microsoft and pro-Apple FUD, but this one takes the cake. Only nirvana can beat this in the terms of rewriting facts and blanket unreferenced assertions.

If fact I wonder if Poe's law applies to your post and the post is in fact a troll.


I resent the implication that I'm a troll first off. Secondly, after reading a lot of the responses to what I wrote I feel like I've been vindicated. I have to admit that I was wrong about Microsoft arbitrarily applying policies unfairly. I plead ignorance on that one. I honestly though I knew what I was talking about.

However, I feel like most of these comments just reinforce my point about how this article frames the situation as being a red herring. If I'm not mistaken the main point of the article is that what Microsoft is doing regarding Firefox on ARM is okay. If that's the premise then what Apple does is irrelevant. The question is "are Microsoft's actions in this case monopolistic?". Now because the answer to that question is most likely yes the author has reframed the situation and brought Apple into the mix to stir up guilt in Apple supporters and sympathy from Microsoft fans. Let's say Apple is wrong which is the implication here. If that's true then so is Microsoft. And if we follow that logic then the author is really arguing that Apple should get in trouble too. So is this even about anti-competitive practices or is this just a way to excuse Microsoft's actions and take some of the heat off them? Seems like the latter to me. Like when you're a kid and your sibling gets away with something then you do the same thing and when you get caught your excuse is "well Billy did it too! He should also get in trouble". It's a childish argument. If one company does it and gets away with it it doesn't mean the others should too. Shame on Apple but let's stick to the issue. Like I said, the way it's framed is meant to muddy the issue by playing on people's allegiances. You implied I was a troll. I submit the author himself is a kind of troll.

Apple had their fiasco and it went the way it went. Whether it was right or not is not the issue. Everyone has played into the author's manipulative ploy.

I don't see the article as a troll, but raises a legitimate question about why Mozilla is only targeting Microsoft and not Apple.

First of all I think we can agree that Apple's actions with iOS and Microsoft's actions with Windows RT are exactly equivalent.

>The question is "are Microsoft's actions in this case monopolistic? Now because the answer to that question is most likely yes..."

How can they be monopolistic when they have zero marketshare in the tablet market and exactly zero apps from their Win32 monopoly will even run on the new platform?

If you think the answer is yes, then is Apple guilty of the same?

> Let's say Apple is wrong which is the implication here. If that's true then so is Microsoft.

Not necessarily, because Apple has a way larger marketshare in the tablet market. Your argument is like claiming in 2000 that it would be an anti-trust issue for Apple to bundle their browser with their computers.

There is an experimental iOS port of Firefox, for what it's worth. It's only technical limitations from Apple's side that prevent it being actually released to users.

You do realize this isn't about Windows 8 on Desktops right? This is about Windows RT on ARM Tablets.

This is about Apple iOS tablets vs Microsoft Windows RT tablets.

That's it.

It is NOT about Windows8 on PCs. Re-read the article.

As such it does seem rather valid that Mozilla is complaining about Windows RT tablets but not Apple iOS tablets

Windows on ARM is where the action will be.

It's about countless millions of corporate machines built around cheap and energy efficient hardware running corporate applications through a browser. Microsoft wants to make sure it's their browser.

>Windows on ARM is where the action will be.

I thought you were the first to predict doom and gloom for Windows 8 in general every time :)

Windows RT isn't Windows 8!

(Actually, I personally expect the success of this first iteration of Windows-on-ARM to be limited, but for it to see more success over time in future versions and as the app catalog slowly expands. Wonder what they'll do about naming when the next versions come along - will the counterpart to Windows 9 be Windows RT 2? Anyway, I think Mozilla is thinking long-term. There is little chance for any significant change in the Windows 8 version of Windows RT at this point, but if they start now maybe they can pressure Microsoft into improving the situation for future versions.)

I don't think Win8 on ARM will be a huge success. Not even a moderate one. What I think, and Microsoft seems to agree, is that ARM based devices will dwarf the x86 PC market, driving it to irrelevance. The x86 PC is Microsoft's cash-cow and they have nothing to replace it.

So, again, Windows on ARM is where Microsoft is going and whatever action MS gets, will be from it.

Won't be much, but if they manage not to screw it up, it may grant Microsoft a few more years.

And yes, they are doomed. Good riddance.

The reason that Apple does not allow other engines in iOS is simple: it keeps all performance and security issues restricted to a single code base. That's good for users too. Considering that browsers implement the gross of their functionality (rendering + javascript) according to standards, there is no reason to have two different platforms that do exactly the same thing. As long as the standard is not owned by any private individuals, this is beneficial, and the same would apply to Windows tablets.

That said, leaving everything on the hands of Internet Explorer scares me, so maybe this fight should be supported :)

Why wouldn't Microsoft be able to use the same excuse then. There are always advantages and disadvantages. The questions is what is the compromise you're willing to live with?

Apple, much like the US Government thinks security trumps everything, including individual liberties, "for their own good".

Indeed they could, I just said that. This lock might force MS to make IE's engine as good as WebKit. I don't see any problem as long as the standards are kept open and the engine doesn't belong to a single entity.

You got the lock-in strategy backwards. It exists to allow the incumbent not to improve their products while maximizing their profits because they don't have to compete.

We are talking browsers here, there isn't much differentiation, it's a basic service. Even then, mobile safari is the most advanced one...

That's how IE6 used to be, too. But because they eliminated all their competition, they didn't have to advance it anymore. It was cheaper and easier to keep it the same.

Not Just That. All the incompatibilities kept users locked into IE6 and Windows for a long time.

The product here is Windows - the purpose of IE for Microsoft is to help Windows, not vice versa.

Why restrict that reasoning to browsers on iOS? You could apply the same reasoning to restrict OS X to only run Safari. Or only allow iTunes for playing music, since there are standards for encoding audio and organizing playlists.

The fact there are browser standards is not a reason to only have one. Competition among browsers leads to improvement in standardized areas like scripting and rendering, and browsers can offer a lot of other functionality that benefits users.

(Disclaimers: I work for Mozilla)

There is a huge difference between iOS and other platforms.

Apple, in legal terms, makes Firefox on iOS impossible. This was not the case with Windows; Microsoft was using covert means to undermine user choice.

To make a blanket statement that Mozilla thinks Apple's banning Firefox from iPad and the iPhone is 'not a problem' is wrong and disingenuous.

We have active projects around ways to give users choice within the constraints of Apple's licensing.

Mozilla fought and won against Microsoft's anti-competitive efforts, under an entirely different technical and legal landscape.

As a Mozillian, I'm pissed and have been pissed off since iOS's launch, but we also have to choose our battles on where we can fight to keep the web open.

To apple's credit, they've provided a web standards based browser to a mobile landscape that didn't have one (at the time) and which spawned many other web standards based browsers like Chrome.

Do I wish Safari on iOS have a freaking file input so I could upload photos from the gallery? YES! Would I want a Firefox browser that was proxy based to get around iOS licensing.... hell no. Is it worth the Mozilla community's time maintaining an iOS based port just for the people who jailbreak their iOS devices... probably not, but no one from Mozilla would stop you from doing the work.

> To apple's credit, they've provided a web standards based browser to a mobile landscape that didn't have one (at the time) and which spawned many other web standards based browsers like Chrome.

As I recall it, Nokia started using WebKit on Symbian before the iPhone came out.

Apple forked KHTML to create WebKit. They kept it open source though and now lots of companies (Nokia, Google, etc.) contribute to it.

I have a US bias, from my POV they provided the first mainstream web browser, but sure...

Hahaha, thank you for providing this brilliant example of a blind anti-Apple troll.

Don't forget iOS is a walled garden since day 1, while Windows used the 3rd party ecosystem to gain relevance on the desktop. Now, with the x86 desktop fading slowly into irrelevance, they are trying to control the environment on what they perceive to be their lifeboat.

Without a JIT they ensure IE will be the only usable browser available on the platform. It's like what they did with private APIs available only to Microsoft programs - all other programs had to rely on slower/worse system functionality and, therefore, Microsoft programs enjoyed better performance.

Microsoft already went as far as making Windows 3 deliberately incompatible with DR-DOS. This is not new behavior - they just resort to it when they are threatened. I expect a lot more of it.

>Don't forget iOS is a walled garden since day 1, while Windows used the 3rd party ecosystem to gain relevance on the desktop

So? None, not even one, of the 3rd party programs running on Windows will run on Windows RT, so I fail to see the relevance of that point and Windows RT is on day -180 right now, not even day 1.

>Without a JIT they ensure IE will be the only usable browser available on the platform.

Apple does the exact same thing and you can say the same things about Apple, so I fail to see how Apple is better in this regard.

iOS is not the next version of OSX. Windows 8 on ARM is the next version of Windows.

> To apple's credit, they've provided a web standards based browser

If Microsoft did that with IE, would you then be OK with it? Or why give Apple a pass based on that?

On what grounds is Firefox not allowed in the App Store? Or does the restriction on JIT simply make performance unappealing?

No downloadable executable content. You can have an alternative programming language interpreter in your program (now), but it can only run scripts that are already in the application bundle.

It's a reasonable restriction from a user's point of view—you don't want to allow arbitrary code execution that may expose vulnerabilities in badly coded applications. It sucks from a developer's point of view.

> You can have an alternative programming language interpreter in your program (now), but it can only run scripts that are already in the application bundle.

If what you say is true, how come there are other web browsers in the App Store?

Opera loads and executes a page on its own servers before passing the content down to the browser.

Other browsers just wrap the native webkit.

On grounds that Apple bans any non Apple interpreter (which downloads code from the net) to be compiled with iOS SDK. I.e. any JavaScript engine including. It's a pure form of anticompetitive censorship.

In addition to the "no code interpreting code" limitation, I'm pretty sure that there's a more specific "any web browser in-app must be the safari browser" rule. Technically, Mozilla could attempt to release an iOS app that used the Safari rendering engine (and framing it around the FF look and feel, bookmark sync, etc.) but I'm sure that would never happen.

>There is a huge difference between iOS and other platforms.

>Apple, in legal terms, makes Firefox on iOS impossible. This was not the case with Windows; Microsoft was using covert means to undermine user choice.

Microsoft was using.. are you referring to the end 1990s or now?

Does the 'huge difference' between them go away if Microsoft puts in a legal clause similar to the one in the iOS agreement?

>To make a blanket statement that Mozilla thinks Apple's banning Firefox from iPad and the iPhone is 'not a problem' is wrong and disingenuous.

Then where are the similar posts about Apple's actions? Surely, the iPad has a much bigger marketshare and Windows RT can easily prove to be a real dud and be DoA? Why is only Microsoft being threatened with hints of anti-trust complaints and not Apple when they are the ones with a near monopoly. Remember "There is no tablet market, there is an iPad market".

There is constant talk of the post-PC world in the media and on HN, and I doubt they're referring to Windows RT instead of the iPad in those discussions which frequently claim that MS is dying in the new computing world.

To summarize, I am really failing at seeing a "huge difference" between iOS and Windows RT that you are.

So, because less people complain Apple does something similar (which is not really the same anyway) Microsoft gets a get-out-of-jail-free card? Because someone else does it, suddenly, doing it becomes right?

>which is not really the same anyway

How is it not the same?

>Because someone else does it, suddenly, doing it becomes right?

No it doesn't. But do you think different laws should apply to a company just because you don't like it? Why are you so against equal justice for equal acts?

It's not hard if you pay attention: Apple introduced a new, completely incompatible platform that can't run OSX software, runs only on ARM and whose programs you can't run on OSX. iOS is not the future version of OSX.

Microsoft has an OS whose next version is getting a new API. It's Microsoft's most important product and one you pretty much can't buy a computer without. So, we can agree that, one year from now, most PC's will be running it. It runs on both x86 and ARM and the big deal is that, on ARM, due to a deliberate choice, only Microsoft browsers will run JavaScript code acceptably. Many people believe ARM will be more relevant than x86 soon and that the browser is the API programs will be written for. Microsoft wants to re-enact the IE6 farce by artificially limiting what browsers run on Windows 8 on the platform they think will be most relevant.

My feeling here (ex-MSFT employee, so maybe biased one way or another) is that Mozilla is going after the soft underbelly of Microsoft, because they can.

Mozilla is already locked out of iOS and they have failed at getting Apple to budge. If WinRT locks them out, they'll be locked out of two out of the three major tablet platforms (it's a safe assumption that WinRT will get some marketshare at least).

Microsoft is an easier target than AAPL - Win8 is still under development so it's still early days and the company has a history with various governmental organizations (the DoJ, the EU). My guess is Mozilla is attempting to rattle Microsoft into opening up Win8 to get Firefox to run. Or drum up enough press, get the DoJ to make a quote or two and really get Redmond to worry.

If I were Microsoft, I would hold my ground. Strategically, it makes a lot of sense to own the browsing experience e2e and I think Mozilla's case is weak given MSFT's lack of marketshare, the existence of Chromebooks, Boot2Gecko, etc.

"Strategically, it makes a lot of sense to own the browsing experience e2e"

Can you expand on this?

There are a couple of benefits I can think of, but no major ones. - Quality of experience: owning the browser ensures that sub-par browsers don't degrade the overall experience (such as destroy battery life and overall platform impressions). - Controlling innovation: If Microsoft feels threatened by HTML then it can limit certain features until native apps catch up. I believe that this is a double-edged sword though, as Chrome and Firefox steadily push forward people are stil unsure if IE can keep up.

Allowing third-party browsers ensures that your platform always has the best browser and the browser is an incredibly important part of the platform.

Personally, I see not allowing alternate browsers as an attack on the browser ecosystem at a time when Microsoft has been trying to be very standards friendly with IE10. For tablets, I use the browser a ton, and being allowed to run the latest and greatest browser of my choice, with WebGL, Web Intents, etc, and not be tied to IE or Safari, is a selling point.

The cynicist in me says that Mozilla's Boot 2 Gecko Phone project most likely will not support other browsers, and Chrome OS doesn't either, so why should Win8. And I think this really sucks.

I don't think Microsoft will make the mistake of falling behind on the web platform again. In fact, their latest moves (both tech, organization-wise) show them throwing more weight behind IE/HTML and less behind .NET/SL/Win32 (this is from me reading the tea leaves from the outside, not any inside scoops).

I'd argue that MS is still falling behind- IE10 is just catching up but has no leapfrogging and how far out is IE11?

Even more critically, look at all of the users MS is leaving behind- no XP support for IE9, will they abandon Win8 users when there's still a massive number of them?

Unless IE ramps up their release cycle I see no way they can stay on the leading edge.

Microsoft isn't even explicitly banning Firefox, from my interpretation of things. They just don't allow executing code in data-space for security reasons, which is a feature that firefox uses for its JIT for performance reasons, but can just interpret it instead. Whereas, Apple explicitly bans running code at compile time.

Furthermore, if Mozilla beat MS on this, they can then take that victory and try and apply it to Apple.

> If I were Microsoft, I would hold my ground.

You mean to justify such kind of crooked behavior?

No, it means owning the browsing/battery life experience e2e.

Geez! When it comes to issues about Apple or Microsoft (or Ruby), it seems a number of people on HN lack the ability to think objectively. It's quite sad really. It's like watching Republicans and Democrats fight in Congress, or North Carolina banning gay marriage, or Muslims and Christians fighting over God knows what. All these things stem from the inability to put oneself in the other side's shoes. Extremism sucks. Apple isn't 100% evil or saintly and neither is Microsoft.

The question is, do you really think that MS can always outdo Mozilla in "browsing/battery" experience?

They are controlling browser for a reason, but not a good reason to rule other players out.

As a platform provider, Apple/Microsoft choose not to provide the full computational power to software developers. All the more reason developers should go to Android.

That's a good point, but I don't think it's the question. Let's start by putting yourself in Microsoft's shoes... and by making the silly assumption that Apple's lock down of iOS is acceptable (suspending reality for a moment).

Write a piece of software for internal use. Now write a piece of software with public API's that will be available to every developer on the planet and will have to be supported for a decade.

You might find that opening up your code for global use may be easy, but it's more often the exception. But there's no denying it will push your ship date out further.

Given MS is so far behind in the ARM-based computing category, it's ludicrous to apply anti-trust restrictions on them. I wouldn't want that to happen to any company, including the ones I hate.

I probably won't ever use one of these Windows 8 tablets, given I have 4 iPads lying around the apartment and prefer Ubuntu on my laptops. But I'd still like to see as many awesome tablet choices on the shelves as possible. Microsoft is putting in a great deal of effort into making a quality product. It's already behind by several years. Let's see what they can do.

This is a bit silly. So the point of this article is that Mozilla "should be criticizing Apple?" Why waste a whole article saying someone else should criticize Apple? It seems more worthwhile to do it oneself.

The trouble with trying to dismiss an argument with accusations of hypocrisy is that hypocrites can be right. If I make an argument that stealing is wrong and then turn around and steal something, that doesn't mean that stealing is morally permissible. Likewise, the fact that Mozilla neglects to criticize Apple doesn't mean their criticism of Microsoft is incorrect.

> Likewise, the fact that Mozilla neglects to criticize Apple

Good points, and furthermore that bit isn't even accurate. Mozilla has been critical of Apple too. But Windows RT is a new product, so there is new cricitism; the criticism of Apple is old.

WinRT is not a new product - it's a new API sitting on top of mostly the same Windows kernel they use for Windows 7.

Windows RT = New product meant for ARM devices (the current topic of discussion)

WinRT = New runtime API for Metro apps that will run on both Windows 8 and Windows RT.

So, it's as much a new product as were Silverlight, WPF and .NET - all layers that allowed apps written for them to run on Windows-based devices.

The kernel underneath is the same.

>Mozilla has been critical of Apple too.

Care to link to them? I am not being facetious, I am genuinely interested in seeing their official statements on this and if they've publicly called Apple to open up iOS to Firefox. Bonus points if they've alluded to antitrust law.

> Care to link to them?

For example, here is criticism from a top Mozilla dev on iOS's closedness,


> Bonus points if they've alluded to antitrust law.

How can criticism of Apple be related to antitrust law? What monopoly do they have?

> What monopoly do they have?

Do they not have what is essentially a monopoly on the tablet space? I'm not up to date on Android tablet market share, but it seems to me that there isn't so much a market for tablets as there is one for iPads. Everything else is pretty much nonexistent. I might be wrong about that, I guess.


Apple has 68% of the market. It's in a very powerful position, but it isn't a monopoly.

Using percentages to decide monopoly status isn't relevant. There are far greater factors involved, as the DOJ/MS trial established precedent in that respect.

That's higher than Google's share of the US search market, according to comScore.


What does tablet market share have to do with search market share?

I stand corrected, thank you. I thought it was far higher.

I fail to see how a random post by a dev on Usenet is remotely close to an official statement by the General Counsel of Mozilla on the company blog.

The general counsel explains the difference here


and meanwhile Google has joined Mozilla in its criticism,


> The trouble with trying to dismiss an argument with accusations of hypocrisy is that hypocrites can be right


Also, iOS was closed from the start and Microsoft is closing Windows down now because it feels that if it doesn't, it will lose the Win8 ARM market too.

And, obviously, Firefox is not the only target - they must be much more worried about Google owning the WOA web space.

>Also, iOS was closed from the start and Microsoft is closing Windows down now...

Err what? You do realize that every single program that will run on Windows 7 will run on Windows 8 right? What do you mean by MS is closing Windows now?

Also, Windows RT hasn't even started shipping yet, so you can say "Windows RT will be closed from the start". Which will make it equivalent to iOS in that regard.

exactly zero windows applications that exist currently will run under metro/winRT, so by extension, windows ARM.

Oddly enough it seems Firefox is able to JIT on Metro/x86

That's because they're not running under WinRT on x86. Apparently there's a special exemption in the x86 version of Windows 8 which allows the default web browser to provide a Metro interface even though it's still a Win32 application.

Win8 is Windows kernel + Windows API + Windows RT. Win8 on ARM is Win8 minus Windows API. It's not a new product - it's a castrated version of the latest version of an old product.

By that metric, neither iOS nor Android are new, they're just castrated versions of OS X and Linux.

An OS is much more than it's kernel.

>The trouble with trying to dismiss an argument with accusations of hypocrisy is that hypocrites can be right. If I make an argument that stealing is wrong and then turn around and steal something, that doesn't mean that stealing is morally permissible.

Bad analogy. A better analogy would be to believe that stealing is wrong, but only loudly blame A for stealing, but be quiet when B does the exact same thing. Maybe the article should've said bias instead of hypocrisy.

>Likewise, the fact that Mozilla neglects to criticize Apple doesn't mean their criticism of Microsoft is incorrect.

Did the article imply or say that?

The article didn't say that, no; the fact that the whole article is a criticism of Mozilla would seem to be an implication that that criticism would extend to Mozilla's argument, but that's an indirect implication, to be sure. But the trouble is that, if that wasn't the point of the article, then once again it seems like a rather silly topic for an article. If the author is really purely interested in people who criticize one company but not another for arbitrary reasons, well, I'm not sure I can see much that's very compelling in that.

To put it bluntly, if he's not actually talking about the software or freedom or the market or anything of substance - if he really is just saying Mozilla should either shut up or criticize Apple, without any regard to whether the criticism is right or the companies being criticized are wrong - then he is being petty, plain and simple.

I wonder how many people throwing opinions around this were "of age" in the early-to-mid 90s and thus remember what an unstoppable behemoth Microsoft was.

This was a time when they had 95%+ of the desktop OS share and you basically couldn't run a home computer with Windows. This was the early days of Linux (IIRC in ~1994 I downloaded SLS running Linux 0.99.x onto ~30 floppy drives over a 2400 baud modem!). Macs were an expensive niche product. Personal computing just wasn't possible without Microsoft.

Microsoft very much used this position to kill Netscape as they saw the Internet as an existential threat (fearing Netscape would be the new OS). They tried to subvert Java (the threat of "write once run anywhere" being a threat to the Windows lock-in) and partially succeeded. It was at this time that the DoJ stepped in.

I can't overemphasize the perception the tech community had of Microsoft then. Windows was rapidly evolving. Windows 95 was, I believe, a major turning point for the company (and where it achieved at least technical superiority over MacOS having preemptive multitasking and dynamic memory management). Microsoft really had an aura of invincibility.

We are not in this situation today. Apple seems unable to do no wrong (in the marketplace; there are what are still fringe elements criticizing them for any number of things) but don't have the market position Microsoft did.

In fact, Microsoft doesn't have the position Microsoft did in the 90s. At this point I believe we have viable alternatives to personal computing between mobile devices, Macs (you can get a Mac Mini for $600), netbooks and--dare I say it--even Chromebooks (you'll note that I left Linux off that list as I believe it will never be a viable mainstream desktop OS and of course I know it powers Android/ChromeOS).

I certainly don't see an issue (yet) with Apple blocking alternative browsers. Don't like it? Buy an Android. Or a Windows Phone 7. Or a Blackberry (OK, I couldn't keep a straight face with that last one).

Windows and Office are the geese that lay the golden eggs in Microsoft. Everything is beholden to them. As an organization, Microsoft seems terrified they'll die and as we've seen time and time again it's that fear and that switch from innovation to defending your turf that ultimately leads to the death of companies.

I believe the whole Metro API browser thing is just more evidence of Microsoft's stagnation. Let them I say. It'll probably, at least in some small way, hasten either their demise or them attempting to turn the boat around before they go off the cliff.

EDIT: yes Netscape was complicit in its own destruction. I used Netscape up until version 3. By Netscape 4 on a 486DX4/100 at least, IE4 was significantly better and faster and I never switched back (not until Firefox 1.5/2 years later).

Netscape eroded at both ends (IMHO). At one end obviously was Microsoft giving away the equivalent to their consumer product for free (as well as bundling it with the OS, making it harder to use non-IE browsers and so on). At the other end was actually Apache. The Apache Webserver I believe it incredibly difficult to build their server software platform (anyone else remember Netscape's Web servers?).

It wasn't until the rise of search engine advertising some years later that Microsoft's hold could be broken, it being the only thing that makes Firefox and Chrome possible.

As an aside to all those who are anti-ads: how exactly would non-OS browsers exist without advertising?

I was around and remember it well. Even if some of the HN community missed the OS wars, they've probably dealt with the consequences of Microsoft's OS monopoly - after killing Netscape, Microsoft allowed Internet Explorer to completely stagnate. More than 5 years passed between the release of IE6 and IE7. Anyone who spent late nights/weekends in the last half decade trying to get some web page to render properly in IE 6 has Microsoft's monopoly to thank for it. I don't love Apple's policies. But so far, they haven't been nearly as harmful.

> Microsoft allowed Internet Explorer to completely stagnate

IIRC, after the legal madness, there were some major shakeups. Not least of which included the entire IE team being settlement-forced into other positions in the company (many went on to what would become WPF, which should be obvious if you've ever seen XAML). I don't envy the post-IE6 group, having to take a huge codebase, maintain backwards compatability, and staff an _entirely_ new team.

But, take that with a grain of salt, as I was in DevDiv at the time this happened. I certainly had some peers who had been part of the legal wrangling and were under mandatory document retention the entire time they worked for me.

There might have been a team but it seems like all that team was created to do was to maintain the IE6 codebase. That is pretty much stagnated development. At the time Microsoft was essentially giving web developers the middle finger because really, what were our alternatives?

Why did IE7 ever get released? Simple, because of Phoenix, aka Firebird, aka Firefox, aka competition. Without that I doubt Microsoft would have ever updated IE or bothered to rewrite IEs rendering engine (which didn't work well until maybe IE9). If not for the new competition into the browser field we would probably still be asking them to fix alpha transparency in PNG files.

So what I'm getting at is, they could have started IE7 anytime they wanted to after IE6 shipped with XP. Stagnation because of team shakeup is just an excuse. I doubt IE7 would have taken that long if Firefox was released right when XP came out.

AFAIK they did add user features during that time like a pop-up blocker (look at the Longhorn 4000 builds and XP SP2). But the rendering engine and most of the other things that matter to web developers was I think left unchanged except for minor bugfixes.

I was around during the time period you're talking about and in my personal experience, Microsoft had plenty of help in killing Netscape from Netscape itself.

I switched to MSIE3 not because of bundling or FUD but because it was a much better browser.

Microsoft has been a bad actor at times when it comes to business practices, but I think a lot of people overestimate how much that helped them and underestimate how much competitor mistakes helped them. Netscape Navigator post-2.0 was a piece of garbage until Firefox rolled around.

I agree - netscape had a big hand in their own implosion. Their codebases had gotten away from them and they had problems managing well after all that growth and hype.

It also didn't help that they went around doing lots of press about how they were going to completely replace the OS layer and kill microsoft when they had basically zero code along those lines.

Sure they had the vision, but it painted a huge (even larger) bullseye on their back while they were busy sinking in their own quicksand.

I agree Netscape helped kill itself, but the list of things Microsoft did is long and sordid.

Yes, Netscape acted stupidly.

Nevertheless, it is rare if ever that a company retained a significant market share for a product once Microsoft decided to kill it by forcibly bundling the same functionality with their 95% monopoly product, Windows.

Microsoft acted stupidly too. Mr. G didn't understand the internet until years after everyone else. MSIE was a piece of junk. The decision to integrate it deeply into the operating system was a security disaster of epic proportions.

The difference between Microsoft and their competitors was that they had unlimited money in the bank and could ship whatever they wanted on 95% of new machines whenever they wanted. Consequently, Microsoft could screw up just as often or even more often than other companies. Most new products only get one chance in the market, but Microsoft products always got a second chance, or a third chance, or however many chances it takes for the competition to give up.

IE3 was the first good browser from Microsoft, but I didn't consider it that much better. It was just good enough not to miss Netscape (much) if you made the switch.

IE4 vs Netscape 4, on the other hand...

Quite true, Netscape's rewrite was a pretty bad mistake and when it was actually released it was still bad.

Must read articles by Joel about it.



Brendan Eich has a different take than Joel: http://techluminaries.com/2008/12/15/episode-1-brendan-eich/

Is there a transcription available? I can't listen to podcasts at work (and don't listen to them in my free time as a personal preference).

I do remember MS of the mid 90s and it's aura of invincibility, but in retrospect it sure looks like that aura was illusory (or highly temporary, which is really the same thing). Even apart from the antitrust suits it seems clear in hindsight, partly due to the examples that you mention, that the market was widening beyond MS's reach.

Microsoft still has 90% desktop market share. They still have a very big reach. And this was the attitude that got them into a lot of trouble:


People might not fear Microsoft like they used too, but they still have the knockout punch in them. If you're their competition, never let your guard down with them.

> If you're their competition, never let your guard down with them

I would upvote you a couple more times if I could. And, since you used a fistfight metaphor, allow me to remind you they never entered one without having their brass knuckles ready.

I highly disagree - especially in the browser area, it took many years to break Internet Explorer's total dominance, and the browser is what mattered most to consumers as the Internet became used by more and more everyday people. IE 4/5/6 was a golden era for Microsoft and many corporations are still stuck on IE6 as a base. Fortunately the consumer market is no longer dominated by IE; now that we have at least 4 major browser platforms across all OS's (IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari) many websites have to be somewhat standards compliant.

I'm just glad they pulled some features out of IE6 because of the anti-trust investigation.

Anyone remember Smart Tags?


MS was basically going to put ads in every page on the Internet via the browser.

And now we have google ads on every page instead.

The fact they are losing the war does nothing to repair the damage they caused.

My only issue with your comments was here: "I certainly don't see an issue (yet) with Apple blocking alternative browsers. Don't like it? Buy an Android. Or a Windows Phone 7. Or a Blackberry (OK, I couldn't keep a straight face with that last one)." Back in the "good old days" that same argument was used "Don't like MSFT's practises? Buy an Apple, Linux, Unix box" etc This is how companies end up in a monopolistic type of situation. I) They exclude competition from their platform and then b) They use fantastic business model execution to achieve a dominant market share for their platform. It takes both to hit that suffocating point. You should be vigilant against both. It's a frog boiling in water type of event.

> I certainly don't see an issue (yet) with Apple blocking alternative browsers. Don't like it? Buy an Android. Or a Windows Phone 7. Or a Blackberry

You are clearly looking at phones. The tablet market is actually pretty unbalanced right now. If Windows 8 fails to shake it up AND tablets manage to keep their momentum, it could actually get ugly, especially with Apple eyeing the education market.

> you'll note that I left Linux off that list as I believe it will never be a viable mainstream desktop OS and of course I know it powers Android/ChromeOS

Why not? The main issues for Linux in this field are QA of releases, and support from third-party application vendors for a small subset of programs. Those aren't unsolvable problems. Even today Linux may be a superior solution to both OS X and Windows for certain people, especially people who lack attachment to a specific OS (i.e., newbies rather than power users).

Surely you must realize that this is the same argument people have been making for close to 15 years, and not much has changed. So that should answer your question about the OPs point.

The main reason most people use Windows is that Dell, HP, Lenovo, Acer and Toshiba make it incredibly hard to buy a computer without it. Go to HP's site now and see if you can get a notebook with Linux preinstalled.

Most people would be perfectly happy with a Linux machine (I can tell you my mother is) and had hardware manufacturers given even some slight support (instead of building dozens of models seemingly designed to be Linux-proof) it would be much more popular.

The sad truth is that most people are not even aware their computers run an operating system. They believe Windows is an integral part of the machines.

The problem is that we, Linux enthusiasts, never managed to interest Microsoft's 5 most important clients (the aforementioned PC makers) on the full-featured, rock-solid, fast and stable desktop and server environment we were giving away for free.

> never managed to interest Microsoft's 5 most important clients (the aforementioned PC makers) on the full-featured, rock-solid, fast and stable desktop

Because it is neither rock-solid nor stable. It changes too much, too often, in an irregluar, unpredictable pattern, so major software makers refuse to target it. Without software, you dont get users, and without users, hardware makers wont bother to preinstall, etc.

Linux will be able to win big when they start putting a stronger emphases on backward compatibility and start supporting releases for 10 years, like Microsoft does, so that users dont have to reinstall distros every 6 months just to be able to install a new version of s single app.

> Because it is neither rock-solid nor stable.

Tell that to Amazon, Google, Facebook, IBM, HP...

> It changes too much, too often

I said "stable", not "stale". If you want unchanging, bundle with Debian stable or Ubuntu LTS (or ink a deal with Red Hat).

> Without software, you dont get users, and without users, hardware makers wont bother to preinstall

Apart from games, I don't see this dearth of software. While I agree some users have very specific needs, most users would be perfectly happy with a browser.

> users dont have to reinstall distros every 6 months just to be able to install a new version of s single app.

Unless you live in the dark ages, keeping a Linux machine up to date across major OS releases is, usually, a breeze. I'd not be surprised if, in a couple major kernel revisions, not even a reboot is needed during the process.

> Because it is neither rock-solid nor stable. It changes too much, too often, in an irregluar, unpredictable pattern

Perhaps you are watching Ubuntu, which does do this. Others are rock-solid and super stable. Slackware comes to mind, Debian is another. Lenny only went out of life a couple of months ago.

I see Linux enthusiasts talking about how their parents are happy with their Linux distro all the time -- that's not an argument for desktop Linux though. Nobody's saying Linux isn't good at browsing the web and checking mail and writing the occasional document.

I don't believe it's the same argument. A lot has changed in 15 years for Linux. It still has a tiny market share, yeah, but it's more accessible and approachable than ever. I think it comes down to making sure Linux delivers the same amount of polish as Windows and OS X instead of any fundamental change that's required.

Not to say I buy into the year of the Linux desktop stuff - I'm expecting it to be a gradual change as Linux gets better and more people start to use it. OEMs preinstalling Linux on PCs definitely helps, too, which they've already been starting to do.

I'm not implying that nothing has changed with Linux, just with its situation in the desktop.

Microsoft has definitely earned their hatred in both the consumer and development communities. They rode their monopoly as far as they could, and they are going to pay for it very dearly. Literally noone I have met in the past 10 years is developing Windows software anymore. Sure, some people use .Net to develop web applications, but it sure seems that nobody develops Windows-only software. So Microsoft, has already lost, and they are on borrowed time. Mobile and Web won, they lost, and it's only a matter of time before this dinosaur finally goes away, like everyone wants them to.

That sounds like a function of the people you've met tbh. Looking at job postings around these parts, the most widespread platform remains .NET.

Whilst the non-existent adoption amongst startups doesn't necessarily bode well for MSFT's future, there is still a huge amount of .NET development going on worldwide.

Sure many enterprises use .NET, just like many enterprises use Java and COBOL running on zSeries mainframes.

What fraction of that .NET jobs would you call "interesting" of "cutting edge"?

.NET developers aren't in the endangered species list. Not more than COBOL developers who know what CICS means.

I like to think that my job of writing software with .NET to control deep sea robots is interesting. How many ruby/python developers could you say the same thing about though? I mean, most web apps are simple CRUD things, which are not interesting or cutting edge. That's an invariant across all programmers.

No kidding. I mean, I don't work on deep sea robots, but I really dig making games with .NET and find it awfully interesting.

If you read HN enough, you'll find that rbanffy's posts generally seem to come from a worldview where credit due to Microsoft, or even to those who use Microsoft products, is close to untenable. In other fora I've seen similar people referred to as ABMers - Anything But Microsoft. I mean, I'm pretty much a Linux/Unix guy (Macs and Linux alike), but I use .NET because it's the most portable option worth working with for my stuff. It's good for that. Sometimes even--gasp--Microsoft comes up with something worthwhile, and outside of the universes perpetuated by folks like rbanffy, many Microsoft products are even liked.

I've been to & heard of plenty of startups doing cutting edge things and using .NET. Maybe a geographical thing?

The thing about adoption in start ups is that Visual Studio 2010 Pro is so expensive. If Microsoft really wants to stay relevant they have to release Pro for free. They have to compete on price with the Eclipse or VIM/command line world. Until then, they will slowly die off. (The express versions are a joke, don't even get me started).

Microsoft runs a BizSpark program that, for all intents and purposes, gives startups access to most Microsoft software for free.



You only pay for licenses over 4 OS and 2 SQL Server (or outright new ones) after graduating BizSpark. 2 SQL Servers (OS licenses are chump change by comparison) go a loooong way* too, as you're presumably scaling up rather than out.


Through the grapevine I hear the "review" process (for more free licenses at graduation) is extraordinarily accommodating, though I'd guess if you're spinning up a box per customer or something insane you'd get denied.

Lots of people get this wrong, I'm surprised Microsoft hasn't carved this correction into a mountain somewhere...

*Stack Exchange is running 2 + failover ( http://blog.serverfault.com/2011/09/30/the-stack-exchange-ar... ), and was running on 1 not too terribly long ago.

Did not realize it changed later. Thank you.

May i ask what's a joke about VS Express? IMO they are very much capable. At least for windows forms and web-applications, never tried the c++ version. In fact it beats any other IDE i've tried anyway.

Only thing i really miss from pro is plugins, version control-integration and code contracts, the last being a thing that probably justifies a price tag anyway.

You can't unit test with them out of the box. To get unit test integration is a rather large effort. If you want to carve a project into a web layer and into the business assembly, you have to jump between editors (web and C#). These two make the tools rather worthless for anything complex and web based.

Now their WinForms ability might be great, but there are few start ups out there at are actually doing anything with desktop development.

I don't want Microsoft to go away: what they are doing with Asp.net MVC is absolutely amazing and is catching up with the Ruby on Rails framework.

Their focus has to switch from software to web and mobile, like everybody else (Apple for example), and I think they are doing it well, late, but well.

> Microsoft has definitely earned their hatred in both the consumer and development communities.

Mostly from clueless people. Link baiters. And fools who get off on blaming and attacking others (it's a group/mob thing).

The other 5%-10% is valid criticism.

> Literally noone I have met in the past 10 years is developing Windows software anymore.

You're living in your own cornered off world.

Microsoft has 90% of the desktop market, rave reviews of their new mobile platform, 60 billion in the bank, absolutely fantastic developer tools that are not matched by anything else, full integration in the stack.

> absolutely fantastic developer tools that are not matched by anything else

I bought Windows 2000 and MSVC 2003 with the first money I ever made through terrible teenager webdev. I was a huge VS fan until I first touched an iBook G4, and even now, I really wish I found a reason to get a Lumia 800. Windows 7 is georgous for consumers.

Still, after five years on Apple and Unix, I find it absolutely impossible to go back to Windows development. And it's definitely a group thing, none of my friends really knows how to work on Windows either. They appreciate what Microsoft is doing lately, but they shrug and stay in their corner of the computing universe.

I think you underestimate the brain drain (= SANE people) out of the Microsoft camp, especially during the Vista years.

>I believe the whole Metro API browser thing is just more evidence of Microsoft's stagnation.

I don't see that. They realize the crap that's thrown at them for malware on Windows and pre-emptively want to cut that off for Windows RT, like Apple did in iOS(see Android for contrast).

Not to mention battery life concerns because the apps with the APIs can always run in the background. Once the door is opened for Firefox, Microsoft cannot shut it for any other third party which wants to make an alleged "browser".

Expecting users to make the call about what's malware and what's not has proved to be naive at best.

Ref. http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2005/07/the-dancing-bunnies...

I'm going to put this question out here for everyone who's had some experience building a JIT engine of some kind: what exactly is the danger of compiling code, even unknown code like from downloaded javascript, when the process' operating environment is supposed to be hardened anyways?

Is it just that the only way to do this is with VirtualAlloc()/mmap()? Could a 'safe' executable page allocator be created for just this purpose?

If the JIT'ing code is tricked into compiling and executing 'malicious' code, hasn't the operating environment - what libs the process can load, what syscalls it has access to, etc - already been security-hardened? My understanding of WinRT is that it's already a bit of a sand-boxed environment, with limited and measured access to the machine's resources.

If it's possible for the JIT'ed code to do something REALLY bad, like install a driver or write to arbitrary system files or something, then it was possible for the JIT'ing code to do that too, and that's almost certainly a really really bad thing.

Even if it's just a matter of the JIT'ed code violating the trust agreement between the user and the JIT'ing code (ie doing something that the user was OK with Firefox doing, like reading the address book, but doing it for malicious reasons), maybe a new trust agreement can be designed, that would make users aware that the JIT'ing program is inherently a bit more dangerous?

Or maybe what really needs to happen is we have to treat JIT's as pluggable, upgradable OS infrastructure, sort of like the image loader or dyld/ld-linux.so? In that case, if the Firefox would install a browser and the Firefox JIT'ter as separate components, and then Firefox would ask it's JIT'er to compile/execute javascript into a separate process - one with much more limited access to the machine?

First three rules of security: Layers, Layers, LAYERS.

To your point, in theory you could accomplish security by totally securing the JIT, or by totally securing the OS, and then exec's JITed code would be ok. However, totally secured JITers and OSs are as mythical as sufficiently smart compilers.

Totally secure, sure. Nothing nontrivial is totally secure, but...

One reasonable option would be requiring any JIT to be via a typed assembly language. You should be able to get a good compromise with close to the performance of native code and the security of verified bytecode from that.

Well, then you have to carefully vet every JITting assembly language. Microsoft in fact does this: the WinRT APIs run on .NET, which has an associated assembly language CIL (formerly MSIL) and JITting runtime, the CLR.

So, if you want a JIT via a typed assembly language you can compile down to CIL. Firefox could do this, but then they couldn't specialize their JIT to run JavaScript properly, which is the hard part anyways. V8 and Gecko are very cool engines, and compiling javascript to CIL wouldn't compete.

This seems like a bad move for Microsoft. Few people see them as the horrible monopolistic evil empire anymore, but it's not so long ago that people saw them that way. They got in significant legal trouble just for bundling a browser with Windows. Blocking alternative browsers, or subjecting them to restrictions MS considers too crippling for their own browser seems like a good way to scare off developers and users alike.

Scaring users off is not that big a problem for them. Microsoft has 5 vital clients - HP, Dell, Acer, Lenovo and Toshiba. As long as you buy a computer with Windows installed (and it's hard not to) they're happy.

Yes, but those clients are expanding their non-Windows offerings. The version of Windows in question isn't for traditional PCs but for ARM tablets. There, it has to compete with Android[1], which has a bit of a head start.

[1] And iOS, when in comes to consumer market share, but that's obviously not an option for the manufacturers MS sells to.

> There, it has to compete with Android[1], which has a bit of a head start.

This matters little if MS is able to leverage their power with PC (by modulating the Windows OEM license price) and phone (modulating their Android patent tax) makers to convince them they should build Win8 tablets. Even as it diminishes, the power Microsoft has over the computing industry is enormous and cannot be ignored.

I have a strong suspicion many phone vendors wouldn't bother to offer WP7 products without some sort of incentive from Redmond.

A lot of misinformation being spread here. Microsoft has not BANNED Firefox in Windows 8. There will be a version of Firefox for all editions of Windows 8, including desktop and tablet as long as Mozilla chooses to make one.

In Windows 8 for ARM-based tablets, applications like this have to run in a sandbox (Metro UI). Get over it. Either consumers will or will not buy a tablet that they can't run applications the way they wish. Perhaps a Windows 8 tablet will be a disaster and all this outrage will be for nothing.

Certainly the restrictions Apple places on iOS are in many ways worse. I don't see how you can be mad at Microsoft but give Apple a pass.

The "sandbox" disallows JITs. That means JS performance in any browser (other than IE) will be basically unusable, effectively banning browsers from ARM Win8.

... and irreparably damaging their reputation when compared with IE.

So, no. I don't buy that "We don't want to ban your app, we just want to make sure it disappoints your users" as fair.

Considering that Apple hasn't been legally ruled to be an illegal monopoly and Microsoft has, the faux-righteous-indignation in the headline completely backfires.

Apple also has a lot more...vocal (dare I say 'zealous'?) followers trying to quell criticism. Those very same people will however gladly take every stab they can at Microsoft.

(I think both companies deserve every bit of criticism for trying to repeat history all over again...)

Microsoft had an abundant supply vocal apologists back then. Moreover, they had the tech press (which was on paper at the time) in their pocket.

Microsoft had an illegal monopoly on x86 powered desktop computers. There's a reason why only the ARM version of the exact same OS is locked down.

As much as I love iOS, I'm sad of some of the comment saying it's normal for Apple to block Chrome/Firefox for security reasons. Tablets (arguably, only the iPad, really) are the future of computing, like it or not. Having a single browser on highly connected machines is shoking.

The whole lockin is understandable, the plateform is relatively new, and proved to be successful in part because if these extreme protections.

But sooner rather than later, Apple is going to have to open some stuff. Being with something like gae keeper on iOS could allow to (very few) browser vendor to get on the App Store with full access to the sysem. Mozilla and Google build solid products with few security issues (if you factor off the security bugs from plugins)

iOS is a very modern OS, but will deeply profit from competition in the browser space. Apple too. The best tablet for apps and web browsing will win in the long run, because the web will win in the long run, but people will always prefer native apps for specific stuff.

Windows 8 is the natural successor to Win7 and XP. It's the next version of the most popular desktop OS in the world. As with Windows 7 and OSX, it should run whatever the hell the machine's owner wants it to.

iOS is a locked-down, consistent, homogeneous user experience on specialty devices that should not be and are not marketed as replacements for computers. Apple Store employees will specifically advise against purchasing an iPad as a primary computer.

If Apple tried to tell me what I can and cannot run on OSX, I'd be pissed. On mobile, I currently have a choice between superior UX (iOS) and freedom (Android), which are at this stage in the game somewhat mutually exclusive (part of the iPhone's appeal is that There Is One And Only One Right Way To Do It).

For the record, I run Android, but I still want to the option to select a higher quality product if I'm willing to sacrifice what Android does better (turn by turn directions and physical keyboard on the Droid 3).

That doesn't mean you should lockdown all the browser apps just to ensure your control. Both iOS and WP8 allow all sorts of apps to be run. Then why not another browser?

AAPL's insistence for banning flash was justified. Flash has always been memory hog and battery killer but not allowing non-webkit browsers is foolish.

Browsers are totally allowed -- there are alternative browsers in the iOS App Store right now (I use Atomic).

What is not allowed is to download code and execute it, which makes it impossible to write your own JavaScript interpreter, and forces you to use UIWebView to render HTML. You can't even just use webkit on your own -- you have to use the one on the device (by using UIWebView).

FireFox would also not be able to have plugins for similar reasons.

Atomic is better than Safari because it allows User-agent switching, view source and some other nice features, all of which doesn't require them to interpret JavaScript with their own code.

My understanding is that the alternative browsers on iOS aren't really browsers- they're reskins of the iOS' webkit. You can't, for instance, plug in your own Javascript interpreter. Opera mini takes a different tack, doing much of the work on their servers and forwarding it to the client. But a full replacement for Safari, like a fork, Firefox, or Chrome, is not allowed.

I wish any browser on my iPhone would support text reflow. Webkit on Android does it. Opera does it. But you can't fix that without putting in a new rendering engine.

Use iCab and try making a reflow widget. There's a text size and reset layout widget already, so seems like it might be possible.

> that should not be and are not marketed as replacements for computers.

Interestingly several of my non-technical friends have taken on iPads as full time replacements for laptops. They only used them to read the news, facebook or watch netflix the iPad does literally everything that they previously had laptops for.

> If Apple tried to tell me what I can and cannot run on OSX, I'd be pissed.

I think the distinction that Microsoft is going for here is Win8 arm = tablets = iOS, Win8 x86 = laptops = OSX. By your argument there should be no problem with them locking it down then.

The idea that an iPad can perform all the functions that some people are (under) using a laptop for doesn't mean that an iPad is an adequate replacement for a computer. They should not be marketed as such.

It all depends on what you use your computer for.

For me it wouldn't be an adequate replacement - I like to work on my code offline and run development servers of my computer, but it's easy to imagine a simple setup where I log on to a remote machine through the tablet and work there.

I'm pretty sure we are agreeing here. If they don't do everything a computer does, they are not a replacement for a computer. If they do everything you do on your computer then they are a replacement for your computer.

Sorry, I misinterpreted that. In that case, I have no more problem with Microsoft deciding what runs on a Windows tablet than Toyota deciding what runs on its car computers, Sony on its stereos, Panasonic on its TVs, Black & Decker on its toasters, etc.

I don't think it's productive to eliminate the possibility of coherent, homogeneous UIs. Certainly consumers should have choices, but iPhone exactly as Apple intended it should one of those choices; Microsoft should be allowed to play that game too.

Nope, all four quadrants will be populated. There will be ARM/Windows RT tablets, ARM laptops, x86/64/Windows 8 tablets, and x86 laptops.

WinRT is to Windows 8, as iOS is to OS X.

And so it begins... I believe you mean Windows RT [1] and not WinRT [2]. Both x86 and ARM processors can use WinRT (metro interface) however Windows RT is the flavour of windows that only runs on ARM processors and only supports third party apps using WinRT [3].

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_RT [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_Runtime [3] http://www.i-programmer.info/news/177-windows-8/4079-three-w...

From the wikipedia article:

  Windows RT (RT stands for Runtime)

  Not to be confused with Windows Runtime
Great choice of names, there.

>"The difference here is that Microsoft is using its Windows monopoly power in the OS market to exclude competition in the browser market."

Some might see it that way. Personally, I don't think that's Microsoft's goals at all, it's just an unintended consequence of them trying to slowly phase out the Win32 API and Desktop applications, and switch entirely to Metro-style WinRT-based apps.

That would make sense except that they specifically exempt their own browser from the restrictions that will apply to every other browser.

No, it makes sense (not that it's necessarily the main or only reason) - it's much easier to break APIs when the only clients are internal.

The problem is that third party applications can cause security and performance issues and it's Microsoft who ultimately takes the blame for it. They exempt their own browser because it's their own browser.

I'd say it's more an exemption for their own rendering engine. IE10 is more than just a "browser" in Windows 8, it is the engine used to execute several Windows 8 applications.

It's an exemption for whatever is preinstalled on the device :) The actual technical mechanism behind this "ban" is simply that installing desktop apps in general is blocked on Windows RT. A "Metro style enabled desktop browser" (what Metro style IE and Metro style Firefox are) is really just a desktop executable that acts like a Metro style app.

i am using firefox since versino 0.x, now of course, apple brags about a monopoly on tablets and firefox is not there, if gartner/idc predictions are true, tablets and other arm based devices will rule the world in 2015. so it is better for mozilla to target apple and ms at the same time.

It may certainly not be their goal, but they should know better.

Meh, it is just time to accept that Android, iOS and Windows RT are not a serious OSes but an unobtrusive, eye-candy cloud clients for masses. The step ahead is either to waste money on VPSes or just demand the right to have full control of the software on hardware we buy -- say Angstrom will always run Firefox without any doubt.

You're totally right there, but sadly group dynamics will make it extremely hard for Angstrom to achieve critical mass as a phone OS and have a significant amount of businesses working in its ecosystem.

I'm totally for it but it's not cost effective for me to get a machine capable of running Armstrong, then hack away until I can get it into a workable state (I'm older and busier now...) over just getting an Android, root it, make a throwaway google account so Google cannot pry on my data, and use that instead. It's still some work and some cost but nowhere as much.

If there's a community effort to make it into a click-and-install Android-wiping mobile phone OS, I'd love to help with that in my spare time. Last time I looked into it (waited for years for my OpenPandora until I gave up) Angstrom was stuck in amateur PDA land, things have moved on and we now have cheap smartphones and tables that are basically overpowered PDAs with extra features and they are available for relatively very cheap. To compete with that a massive re-focus would be necessary. Obviously there is no substitute for freedom, so the niche is there.

arguments of the form "why aren't you complaining as much when X does it?" are always lame. because (1) often they are, you just haven't noticed it (often because it hasn't resonated with a media echo chamber) and (2) so what.

This is such a tired argument. Microsoft's market share on browsers, desktops, etc. has been headed straight south for years, and yet Mozilla continues to beat the drum about choice and innovation and such? Hey, 1998 called, they'd like their complaints back.

Mozilla isn't going after Apple because they can't -- they don't have a hammer of government oversight to pound away to get someone else to do things on their behalf. Mozilla is going after Microsoft mostly because they can get away with it.

These complaints were relevant years ago, but much like Microsoft itself, they're reflective of an old mindset that's fading away.

My thoughts in summary: what a difference a name makes.

iPhone runs iOS; most people don't even consider it OSX, so expectations about what apps should be there aren't based on precedence.

"Windows 8 on ARM" /sounds/ like just another platform (out of many) that Windows has been ported to. The expectation is usually based upon what the software vendor can be bothered to port, rather than what Microsoft does.

So to me it's easier to understand why people would have different expectations compared to Apple on this. Change the name and don't include any legacy UI if you want a more direct comparison to be more obvious.

Apple has been consistent in it's policies. It has always been a closed castle. That is one reason why I haven't spent any bucks buying Apple products. One good thing about their consistency is that their browsers and other software is pretty good. Safari is much decent browser than crappy IE.

Microsoft on other hand has always grown with partners. They are not a closed castle. So when they try to gag a great software like Firefox I am upset.

This comes at a time when Linux based OS like Ubuntu are perhaps as good as Windows 7. MS is hurting itself.

Of course, there are other web browsers for iOS: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3961084

But no alternative rendering engines (all the alternative browsers are just UIWebViews save for Opera Mini which Apple don't classify as a browser since it doesn't do any rendering locally), and the alternative browsers have worse performance than Safari due to the sandbox disallowing some optimizations allowed in Safari.

Why are they blocking FF? It seems to me Apple's inviting the same anti-trust problems Microsoft had. Just let FF on and compete.

A browser is a huge attack surface. It's excluded for the same reason Flash and Java are excluded.

BTW I think this justifies Microsoft's stance too. The big problem is that Microsoft has this nasty track record.

so we can trust IE to be much more secure and not have problems?

No, but ie + other browsers is guaranteed to be less secure than just IE.

Not if you don't use IE

IE will be used as a browser widget at API level by third party apps, so using it will be almost unavoidable.

I suspect it's likely that apps that wish to use an alternative rendering engine for untrusted content would use IE only for trusted content.

Has MSFT given any justification on why they are banning Firefox from Windows 8?

And why iOS doesn't allow FF too?

They're not banning it. They're just not allowing access to critical API functions for a JIT engine to Windows Marketplace apps. Only IE has access to it. Without these APIs then Firefox will run like a dog because it'll undue all the years that people have been working on optimizing Javascript engines.

Right. So... I don't ban anyone from my swimming pool... everyone is welcome. But if you're not family, you have to wear this 100lb ankle weight. Dive right in everybody! lol

A more apt analogy would be to require everybody to wear a life jacket and a bike helmet. You can do whatever you want, as long as it's safe.

I think there is a big difference between banning it outright (like Apple) and hampering it. From the end-users point of view both suck, but at least if I use Firefox to sync my bookmarks and passwords I'm able to on a Windows tablet. Nothing I can do on an iPad.

First, let's assume the majority of users are not going to know why the an app is not allowed and/or why it is sluggish/limited/hampered/etc. From the average user point of view... the biggest difference to me is that when it is banned, the banner (Apple) is the bad guy for not letting it in. When it is severely hampered the bad guy appears to be the creator (Firefox) for making a crap app when in reality the hamper-er (Microsoft) is the bad guy for crippling the app's ability to perform as well as it can.

I think that one of the guidelines when developing iOS apps is that if you are building a browser you must use WebKit/UIWebView.

And the reason is because they don't allow you to run code that you download (which you would have to do to support JavaScript).

Only one of the organizations involved here has a court mandated consent decree.

The key difference is that its iOS on Apple hardware vs a general OS.

I would like to take the time to point out that Opera has a browser on iOS http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/opera-mini-web-browser/id3637... (iTunes)

Opera Mini doesn't contain a rendering engine or JIT or...it's a glorified image viewer that lets the rendering be done on a remote server.

I don't think Apple blocks Firefox on iOS. Other browsers like Opera exist in the App Store, maybe Mozilla just hasn't developed FF for iOS yet? Or am I wrong?

Apple blocks all non-Safari browsers from the store. Opera Mobile doesn't exist in the App store, only Opera Mini which uses a remote server for rendering. Other browsers in the store use iOS webkit and are effectively shells around the Safari rendering engine.

What's wrong with the webkit rendering engine?

Chrome started as "effectively a shell" around webkit. As far as most end users are concerned, the difference between browsers is the UI, not the rendering engine. I use iCab on iOS for its UI and amazing feature set (including Adblock and extensions), and apprececiate the choice. In fact, it syncs with Firefox bookmarks. Atomic is also nice.

It would be very interesting to do a Firefox-like UI for iOS and see what the end user uptake would be.

One example: The iPhone webkit doesn't support text reflow even though it's supported by webkit on Android and in Opera.

Many years ago you could have said "What's wrong with the IE rendering engine" because, at one time, IE was the best browser available on Windows.

Nobody said there's anything wrong with it, only that you can't use any other engine.

Even if your browser is a skin on webkit, it will run in a sandbox and have worse performance than Safari on iOS.

From mozilla.org:

We have no plans to release the full Firefox browser for iOS. The iOS SDK agreement requires apps to use Apple's own JavaScript engine (or none at all, like Opera Mini which downloads pre-rendered pages from Opera's servers and cannot run JavaScript code in the client). Because of this, we have no supported way to distribute Firefox's rendering and JavaScript engine to iPhone users. However, you can download Firefox Home for iPhone, an iOS app that uses Firefox Sync to deliver Firefox bookmarks, browsing history, and tabs to your iPhone or iPod Touch.

I think a big part of the history which people are forgetting here is that there were certain actions which Microsoft engaged in that strengthened the determination of "monopolistic" behavior. Namely, the restraints and difficulty they created for other operating systems in the market. [1][2]

This specific instance ignores that particular history, and focuses just on the "browser included, supported, and otherwise enabled with the most features" part of the argument, which by its self does not seem to stand on its own merits. And, in fact, there really is -no- difference here between Apple and Microsoft - both have created a specific version of their software for a specific hardware platform, and both have placed, or are placing restrictions on what software can run on those platforms with the stated goal of controlling the end-customer experience.

There is not yet any evidence of undue influence on the part of Microsoft to prevent, or otherwise make too costly for, other operating systems, with other browsers, to be installed on ARM-based hardware sold in the market place. In fact, at this point, it seems to be exactly the opposite - that all existing ARM-based tablet style devices currently for sale in the market contain non-Microsoft operating systems, and very few ARM-based phone style devices contain a Microsoft operating system. One would do well to remember that it was the sum of all actions which led to the anti-trust case, not just preventing IE from being uninstalled effectively, or preventing Netscape from being installed at the same level and with the same capabilities as IE.

In this case, there is no evidence that MS is taking other actions to prevent people from selling arm-based devices with other operating systems. Given that we accept that it is legal for other entities to restrict what 3rd party software may be installed on their devices so long as they don't apply undue influence on the market outside of their product, I don't see why the reasoning would be so different here.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Microsoft "... Microsoft's conduct in forming restrictive licensing agreements with original equipment manufacturer (OEMs), and Microsoft's intent in its course of conduct. "

[2] http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/Pre_96/July94/94387.txt.html

"Exclusionary Per Processor Licenses--Microsoft makes its MS-DOS and Windows technology available on a "per processor" basis, which requires PC manufacturers to pay a fee to Microsoft for each computer shipped, whether or not the computer contains Microsoft operating system software. The complaint alleges that this arrangement gives Microsoft an unfair advantage by causing a manufacturer selling a non-Microsoft operating system to pay at least two royalties--one to Microsoft and one to its competitor-- thereby making a non-Microsoft unit more expensive. "Microsoft has used its monopoly power, in effect, to levy a "tax" on PC manufacturers who would otherwise like to offer an alternative system," said Bingaman. "As a result, the ability of rival operating systems to compete has been impeded, innovation has been slowed and consumer choices have been limited.""

Perhaps Apple does it for quality purposes, while Microsoft does it to avoid competition.

>Preston Gralla

Not this guy again.

But Apple made that 1984 commercial years ago. That means it can do no wrong, right? AND it's so cool. That also means it can do no wrong, right?

Best guess, the author is intentionally being dense and stirring up controversy for clicks.

Yes, iOS and Windows RT are similar in some ways. The main difference is that Windows RT is a version of Windows, an OS that is a monopoly in its area. Extending a monopoly to other areas is different than a totally new product. Note that Microsoft is using the dominant position of Windows to further Windows RT, for example by having Office on it and various syncing stuff.

Yes, there are grey areas, and all of this is debatable. It does make sense to give Microsoft more leeway given it is fighting an uphill battle in the tablet space. But the article seems to ignore all of that.

> give Microsoft more leeway given it is fighting an uphill battle in the tablet space

So, if we make it really hard to rob a bank, we should be OK with someone robbing one. The fact it's an uphill battle does not make it less an abuse of monopoly to extend it into other markets than it would be if they managed to see this opportunity before others (or not failed miserably to execute on it, over and over again).

It's only an uphill battle because they were incompetent to see the opportunities Apple saw and to execute as well as Apple did.

I think what OP meant was that Microsoft should not be hobbled with deadweights compared to, lets say a startup competing in the tablet market. I don't believe he was talking about special incentives.

Competition is almost always good, especially seeing that Android tablets are hardly making any traction and even Kindle Fire sales dropped like a rock this quarter.

#drunken troll comment

"Windows 8 FTW! Dude you are the DON. I really wish there was more people like you writing opinions like this online and make sure Apple gets what they deserved! What a bunch of asshole! Seems to me you should also give Samsung a call, see what they think! After all this they do not have browser either yet on iOS and I bet they really wanted it maximum! Apple should be take a leaf from the real Mr Steve book, and stop making mess of themselves. Shameful really, this is why I always buy Samsung product and Microsoft software, it is best for everyone to avoid this Apple who are never good for anybody. Thank you for great article."

I think Mozilla are absolutely right. and there is no hypocrisy. Microsoft are willing to, and have actually already, cause years of stagnation and harm to the internet with IE6. Presumably if they got the chance they would do it again on tablet too. Apple on the other hand don't appear so risky for two reasons:

1) they've never appeared to have an issue with other browsers on Mac OS

2) there's Android and its browser competing with iOS, so there is not a complete iOS-only monoculture like Microsoft had with Windows - there is still competition between mobile browsers (yes, switching browsers means you have to switch device, but that's better than nothing and will surely prevent one mobile browser from stagnating for five years).

I know this doesn't mean Apple wouldn't do it if they had the chance, but as another commenter pointed out, many people have bad memories of long weekends trying to work with IE6 for the long 5 years between IE6 and IE7. Microsoft have already offended, so they deserve extra special attention, especially with legal agreements possibly still in place due to the antitrust cases.

FF's entire existence is based on a hate of Microsoft, so it only makes sense.

That's why they're taking it up the butt from Google Chrome, Mozilla does not know how to deal with them. Nor do they particularly care that much about it, it seems (other than switching to increasing the version number every 2 months).

> FF's entire existence is based on a hate of Microsoft

As a student of history I'm sure you are aware that Mozilla (the name and the code base) predated Internet Explorer. I think you meant to say that Internet Explorer's only reason for existing was that Microsoft feared Netscape.

I stand corrected, thanks. Read up on the actual history of the browser. Thought today was going to be a day I did not learn something :-)

As a student of history I'm sure you are aware that Mozilla (the name and the code base) predated Internet Explorer.

Indeed, the name Mozilla comes from "Mosaic killer."

There is so much wrong with every word you oddly decided to type.

EDIT: Seriously, HN? _I_ am sitting below zero? gm's obnoxious, fact-deficient, "up the butt" spiel is where HN is going now? How ignorant.

You're being down voted because you didn't say anything. HN users hate that even more than complaining.

I'm cool with the downvotes, and appreciate the reason. All I petition is that gm's fanboy rhetoric gets the attention it deserves, which is a nuking from orbit.

It already has enough attention.He just being a subtle troll and should be ignored.

It is improbable that someone with 20 years of experience in the tech sector would be oblivious to the Netscape/IE situation unless he is one of those people that include the years he spent programming since he was 5.

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