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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

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

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Reader Comments:

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Sun, Jan 19, 2014

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Sun, Jan 19, 2014

Furrealz? That's maolevrusly good to know.

Wed, Nov 28, 2012 David Frederick

Just to correct a little misinformation in the comments... iOS does support other browsers. There are many in the app store that can be installed, including Google Chrome.

Wed, Jun 13, 2012 Ed

What about Android or iOS devices? How friendly are those platforms for adding additional browsers? Microsoft is acting exactly like the other vendors here.

Wed, Jun 13, 2012 Greg

don't think MS will ever control the browser market again. Consumers will switch away from Win phones if the same problems n IE9 persist down to their phones;

Wed, Jun 13, 2012 ibsteve2u Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

The single word (ok, contraction, ye English majors) that influences my buying decisions more than any other is "won't". If something "won't" run/do something...bang: It is instantly demoted down the list of choices. I've been that way ever since I unwittingly bought a Tandy product with an 80286 chip which could not be put into protected mode due to the way the motherboard was wired. From that inability to take advantage of what Microsoft Windows offered came my antipathy towards any vendor - to include Microsoft - or product that restricts my ability to fully utilize my purchase. My attitude may change, of course, if I start to think of Windows RT as a "dumb" program - like, say, the old Tandy Deskmate - rather than an operating system. That, of course, is the inevitable outcome of sufficient "won'ts" - and may indeed be Microsoft's goal.

Wed, Jun 13, 2012 Kenneth Jackson

Yes the desktop is locked down on Window’s RT for good reason which is not the case for Windows 8. Anyone who wants to write a browser for Windows RT can but cannot install their own java engines or any other plug-ins which will be great for consumers. Google has written a supposedly Metro browser for Windows 8 which ignores ALL of the design guidelines. Pure laziness on Google’s part. But hey don’t even stick to their own guidelines why should they be expected to use Microsoft's...

Wed, Jun 13, 2012 EVVJSK

Let's hope MS is not back to it's old tricks. They just started making progress on regaining the trust of Consumers and Countries. If both Google and Firefox are having problems, it could spell bad news for MS unless they can articulate what the problems are.

Wed, Jun 13, 2012

It seems to me that if Microsoft is not behaving in a monopolistic manner, then there is no reason a third party browser would run any slower than IE, other than the browser's team not spending time on the performance. As long as the playing field is even, then no one should whine about another having an advantage. HOWEVER, if Microsoft uses special DLLs not provided to others, etc. then it is a return to the days when MS was found guilty of monopoly and forced to open things up. If IE is really all that great, then why would they be worried?

Wed, Jun 13, 2012

Limitation is only on ARM (I think) and so I have no problem with it. Apple (who has majority marketshare in tablets) does it and I don't hear people complaining about them. And Google complaining?? Really? These are the same people who are trying to kill h264 in favor of webm. I think MSFT needs to do what it needs to do, to grow its tablet/phone marketshare. So to this I say: Who cares and I'm fine with it.

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