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Win RT Locks Out Browsers?

The browser wars are not as simple for correspondents to cover as they once were. In early browser days Netscape ruled -- it was all there was. Then IE took over. More recently Netscape (which is subsumed by the open source Firefox) has fought back. And now Chrome is also taking a bite out of PC and laptop browser market share. So on PCs and laptops, the market is segmenting into to the big three, with Safari running on most Macs.

Browsers are splintering in more ways than this. I may have mentioned (and yes you'll hear it again and again) that I just got a new iPad. On the iPad, Safari rules (I downloaded Firefox to get my bookmarks but it doesn't seem to render quite as well) as it does on the iPhone. Mobile is a vendor-specific world ruled by vendor's own browsers. Do I really want to run IE on an IE phone or Chrome on a Windows Phone?

So I have to wonder if the notion of Windows RT (Win 8 on ARM) running only IE should really be all that controversial.

Allow me to back up a second and cover a Microsoft spat that has been going on for a bit (and isn't letting up anytime soon):

Google and Mozilla are openly complaining through blogs that Microsoft is using crafty technical tricks to only allow IE to run on Windows RT. That, they say, isn't right.

At first, the complaints were that non-IE browsers wouldn't run as well as IE on RT -- a handicap that would mean market death for competing browsers. Now Google is saying Chrome won't work at all.

Microsoft has been far too quiet, and as a result, I've no idea how this will all turn out.

As a potential end user, I care this more on principle. On a phone I could care less about a choice of browsers. On a tablet that costs more than a low-end laptop and is, in essence, still a computer, I sure do.

Meanwhile, Google is forging ahead with Chrome on Windows 8 for Intel, so it looks like the limitations will only extend to ARM devices -- most of which are expected to be tablets but there is no reason they all have to be. Chrome for Win 8 will exploit both the old "desktop" and the new "Metro" interface, and seems right on pace with IE.

How do you feel? Let us all know at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/13/2012 at 1:19 PM


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