Windows 8 on ARM restrictions could fall afoul of EU browser ballot deal

Windows 8 logoMozilla issued a statement last week raising concerns over some technical restrictions that Microsoft is imposing on Windows RT, the ARM variant of the upcoming Windows 8 operating system. Windows RT will not provide third-party software with access to the conventional native platform APIs in its classic desktop mode. This means rival browsers won’t be able to support the environment.

As we wrote in our coverage of the dispute last week, Mozilla warned Microsoft that the restrictions could carry antitrust implications. The statement, which was written by Mozilla General Counsel Harvey Anderson, pointed out that denying native third-party applications access to the classic desktop would conflict with Microsoft’s Windows Principles. It could fall afoul of the company’s commitments in Europe and the United States.

According to a new report from InfoWorld, Microsoft has declined to comment on whether its 2009 deal with EU regulators will require Windows 8 to carry a browser ballot like the one that currently ships with Windows in Europe. The browser ballot, which is displayed after the first boot, prompts the user to select from a list of available browsers. The order of the list is randomized in order to prevent favoring any individual browser vendor.

The browser ballot was endorsed by Opera, Mozilla, and Google. Data published by the browser vendors in 2010 indicated that the ballot was improving adoption of third-party browsers in Europe. Opera, which originally instigated the EU’s browser investigation, saw its downloads triple in several European countries in the immediate aftermath of the ballot’s launch.

Microsoft’s deal with EU regulators specifically mandates inclusion of the ballot in subsequent versions of Windows. It is set to expire in 2014, which means that it is theoretically still applicable to Windows 8. It’s not clear yet whether Microsoft will be able to reconcile its browser ballot obligations with the technical restrictions in Windows RT.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: browsers, Microsoft, Mozilla, OSes, Windows 8

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