Why Microsoft blocking third-party browsers is no cause for panic

Go to most boardrooms today and you’ll see less and less people with laptops and more people using tablets and smartphones.

As Android and iOS have firmly cemented themselves into the on-the-move computing via tablets and smartphones, Microsoft is yet to make its cautious leap into the fray. While Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system still dominates in laptop sales, the truth is that more people are looking to tablets for running around.

Enter Windows 8.

Microsoft has already partnered with Nokia to introduce its smartphone OS to the world, and while the launch has arguably been a bit of a flop, all techies are rather keen to see what Microsoft has to offer tablets later this year.

But browser giants Mozilla and Google are a little up-in-arms by the fact that Microsoft will not be allowing third-party browsers to its tablet platform. Well, sort of. It seems that while you can still install Firefox or Chrome on the tablets, certain APIs will only work via Internet Explorer, giving people a rather dull view of the internet if they’re not using IE.

These two companies have always worked on an “open environment” and want people to have a free choice in what they use to view the web. Well, that’s all nice, until you try to load Internet Explorer onto a Chromebook. What’s good for the goose is surely good for the gander?

Closed-system environments are not exactly new to the consumer. We all saw that when Apple launched the iPhone, and later the iPad. Every single App designed for an Apple product has to go through stringent testing before going live on the Apple AppStore. It’s part of Apple’s philosophy of creating products ‘that always work’. Having been an iPhone user myself since the original iPhone 2G came out, I can attest to that — my iPhone never crashes.

But it also came with a lot of controversy, most notably Apple’s decision not to allow Flash through its browser. Adobe complained bitterly. People speculated whether this was simply not a strategy by Apple to force people to use paid-apps rather than flash-enabled website environments. Self-proclaimed experts said the iPad was doomed because it lacked Flash support. And then it thrived, with web developers quickly dumping flash to create “tablet-friendly” websites.

So is it true then that we as consumers are “locked-in” or forced to use a particular browser, as both Google and Mozilla claim? I hardly think so.

While it’s true that Microsoft may limit its users to Internet Explorer, it doesn’t mean that you, as the consumer, are forced to use an MS tablet at all. If you prefer Chrome, then try Android. If you like Safari, get an iPad.

The point is that while closed-systems do exist the consumer still gets to choose which system he’d like to use.



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