Last week, Mozilla and then Google made complaints that Microsoft has an unfair advantage by locking out competing web browsers on their new Windows on ARM platform. One thing that they never bring up is that Windows for ARM (or Windows RT as it is called) is an OEM only edition that is designed for tablets and other devices. It is not a PC operating system. That means Microsoft’s decision to limit access to certain API’s to only themselves is perfectly in line with how other vendors work (i.e. Apple).
John Gruber summed up my feelings on this whole issue in three posts:
- Asa Dotzler Objects to Windows on ARM Locking Out Competing Web Browsers
- Google Agrees with Mozilla’s Windows RT Browser Concerns
- Microsoft Antitrust Finding Specific to Windows on Intel?
This whole ordeal is a non-issue from both a DOJ perspective and a consumer perspective. Why?
- From the DOJ standpoint: even if the original Microsoft ruling hadn’t expired, and even if it hadn’t been pertinent to only Intel-based Windows PCs (Windows RT is for ARM-based Windows devices), Windows RT is aimed at an entirely different market in which Microsoft does not own a significant market share, much less a monopoly. Locking certain “browser-essential” APIs is not an anti-competitive practice, it is an attempt at making a competitive advantage for Microsoft’s products. If consumers don’t like it, they have viable alternatives.
- From a consumer standpoint: Consumers just don’t care. How do I know this? Because Apple does the exact same thing on iOS. Was there a huge uproar from the masses to get other web-browsers on the iPad? No. The only people this matters to is the smaller tech community who actually care what web browser they run. Consumers in general don’t care about web browsers. They only care if their favorite site will load an run properly on their PC or device. And with major vendors slowly doing away with plugins like Flash, we can see that customers are even flexible on that.
Personally, I’ve been playing with the Windows 8, and I like what I am seeing. For those who don’t, there are perfectly valid competing products. It is a brave new world. Microsoft doesn’t hold the sway they once did due mostly to the surge in mobile brought on by Apple. There is room for multiple players, and Microsoft has as much right to play by the same rules as everyone else. And that is what they are doing.