Microsoft attacked over Windows RT software restrictions

May 10, 2012 // 3:22 p.m.

Tags: #apple #app-store #firefox #ios #microsoft #mozilla-foundation #windows-8 #windows-marketplace #windows-rt #windows-store

Microsoft has been accused of shutting out other software developers following the news that its Windows RT operating system for ARM-based products would only run Microsoft software in the 'desktop' layer.

While Windows RT - the edition of upcoming OS Windows 8 designed for devices with ARM architecture processors - will support third-party software, such packages will have to operate within the Metro UI layer. The only software to operate outside the touch-centric interface, which is based on the Windows Phone tile-based user interface, will come from Microsoft.

Browser maker Mozilla claims that's a clear case of anti-competitive behaviour from a company which has found itself in hot water over similar moves in the past. 'We think it's a dangerous precedent,' Mozilla's general counsel Harvey Anderson told the Wall Street Journal in a telephone interview late yesterday. 'You're going to look up one day and there's going to be one browser. We'll be right back where we started.'

Anderson compares the restriction on third-party software for Windows RT to the behaviour that saw Microsoft attempt to exclude third-party browser Netscape from its Windows machines in the 90s - a move which led to the US government filing an antitrust suit against Microsoft.

Mozilla's backlash against Microsoft plans comes as a result of the latter's desire to become more like Apple. Following the success of Apple's iOS closed-platform model, where the only software that can be officially installed on an iPhone or iPad is published through Apple itself, Microsoft has seen an opportunity for profit - but one which is putting the company at odds with developers.

All software for Windows RT, the company has confirmed, will come from Microsoft's Windows Marketplace storefront - giving Microsoft a cut of any proceeds from paid-for applications. Providing Microsoft allows publishers to submit free apps - which it will - that by itself is none too onerous, but Microsoft's decision to restrict publishers to developing Metro apps for Windows RT is a different matter.

Mozilla has promised to make a formal statement outline its concerns in the coming days, while Microsoft has declined to comment on the matter.
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