Firefox and Chrome may not be allowed on locked Windows 8 tablets despite the speed with which Mozilla and Google have jumped on making their browsers compatible with the new Microsoft operating system.
Microsoft has said that tablets based on power-pinching ARM processors will be closed systems that can be upgraded only via Microsoft.
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“Consumers obtain all software, including device drivers, through the Windows Store and Microsoft Update or Windows Update,” according to a Building Windows 8 blog explaining Windows on ARM (WOA) policies.
A spokesperson for the company didn’t have anything to say on the record when asked about how this applies to competing browsers, but likely that is something to be hashed out in licensing agreements between the company and whatever hardware manufacturers decide to build WOA-certified devices.
The way Microsoft describes WOA, it is a hardware-software bundle much the same as an iPad and that would create warranty issues if unauthorized software were installed.
Microsoft makes a good case for binding the hardware to the software; that limits the allowable applications to those vetted by Windows Store, and operating system maintenance is left up to Windows Update. Both of these conditions can help boost security by limiting the attack surface for malware and by keeping the system patched.
In turn vetting the software and keeping the operating system upgraded will keep the devices running faster.
The downside is that customers buy a device and have to treat it the way Microsoft says they can even though they own it. Those who want to write their own apps – and Microsoft encourages developers to write Metro-style apps that take advantage of Windows 8’s touch support – will have to submit them first to the Windows Store. That’s something that might be unattractive for authors of proprietary apps.
The alternative is jailbreaking and blowing the warranty.
The upside is that this decision likely hasn’t been set in stone – yet.
Meanwhile, the Firefox and Chrome browsers being developed for Windows 8 will certainly be allowed on non-ARM Windows 8 machines, so X86 tablets and other touch and keyboard/mouse devices will be able to port them.
To be fair, IE 10 is different enough from IE 9 and Firefox and Chrome to warrant a look. After a test drive, some users will no doubt prefer it to the competitors.