How Windows 8 Ruins Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and OperaWindows 8 has a beautiful new interface, modern and sleek. I love it, and despite some concerns, it really is a lovely direction for computing to take. But Windows 8 has a darker side, one that Microsoft is hoping you don't notice: this new operating system is all about control. Microsoft has gone back to the drawing board and created an operating system that gives them an unprecedented level of control over you, the user. To demonstrate that, I'll use web browsers.
A brief History of Web BrowsersEarly in the web browser wars, the battle between Internet Explorer and Netscape drove innovation. The two companies duked it out in an attempt to make more innovative, powerful software.
Netscape, of course, lost. Then browser innovation stalled for many, many years. A few token updates to IE culminated in IE6, a broken, backwards browser that sat as the only real option anyone had for half a decade. Then came Mozilla, reviving the Netscape code, and everything changed. Web browsing was immediately forced back into a state of innovation, and it wasn't long before rich websites were the norm rather than the exception. Now HTML5 makes things possible in pure HTML that would have been thought impossible outside of native code.
Microsoft, Back in ControlWindows 8 features a brand new interface that runs concurrently with the desktop we know and love. We call it Metro still, even though Microsoft backed away from that a little while ago for some reason. Metro is gorgeous, modern, and requires you to code your apps slightly differently, based on different API's.
There are two different versions of Windows 8: one designed for Intel and AMD's X86 processors, and one designed for ARM's low-power mobile processors, processors which are likely destined to become dominant in the near future.
On the X86 version of Windows 8, any app can be installed from anywhere, not just the app store. Software doesn't have to conform to the Windows Terms of Service, which bring back memories of the iPhone's app store. Any app can make use of the fancy new API's. Basically, you can do whatever you want with it.
But this isn't the version of Windows Microsoft is basing their future on. That is a legacy platform, with concessions made to people expecting legacy features. ARM is the future, and where Microsoft is testing their new model.
On Windows RT, the version made for ARM, you can only install apps from the app store. If it doesn't come from the marketplace, its not going on your device. Apps from the marketplace don't get access to all of the API's, for example the ones running Internet Explorer.
See, IE runs beautifully in Metro, but its code is based on the more powerful desktop mode. The reason why IE runs so well is because of that added power. Outside of Microsoft apps, no others are allowed to do this. Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Safari included. They are all constrained to Metro API's only, and must be distributed through the app store.
That means that Chrome's legendary speed is impossible on Windows RT. They just can't code it, and Internet Explorer has an inherent advantage. Same goes for Firefox. This is why Google hasn't made a Metro version of Chrome for ARM.
Technically, nothing is stopping Google from making Chrome for Windows RT. But its a false choice, an illusion. Chrome for Windows RT wouldn't be Chrome. It wouldn't have the speed, the features, the elegance. Microsoft has loaded the tables, as is their right, but is that the kind of computing future we want?
Apple has been heading down this road for years. Now Microsoft is following suit. Android and Linux are the last true open platforms, but even Google has been headed down the path of control. Just the other day I tried to pipe my locally downloaded Google Play music into 'Zombies, Run!', which mixes in your music while you run. I couldn't do it. Play Music doesn't share the music with the system, and Google hasn't written an API for it. Just like they haven't for Latitude check ins, Google Now, or many of their other products. Android might be open, but everything built on top is just another controlled ecosystem.
And this control is going to destroy innovation.
Photo by : Microsoft