Microsoft has already made it clear that Windows 8 will function differently on devices with ARM and x86 processors. In fact, things will be so different that the company is giving the version of the upcoming operating system designed for ARM-based tablets and other devices a different name: Windows RT.
While Windows 8 and Windows RT will look a lot alike, Windows RT will function a bit differently. There will be an emphasis on the touch-friendly Metro user interface and it’s likely that the only place to download and install apps for Windows RT will be the official Windows Store.
But the differences aren’t just skin deep. The folks that develop the Firefox web browser have been working on a version for Windows 8 — and they’ve run into some stumbling blocks with Windows RT.
Mozilla community director Asa Dotzler says that’s because Microsoft doesn’t let third party developers use the same tools to create Windows RT apps that Microsoft uses for its own software.
In a nutshell, Internet Explorer will have access to a full set of APIs which allow it to run smoothly on ARM-based computers. Firefox, Google Chrome, and other third party browsers will not. At least that’s the way things look right now.
Theoretically Mozilla and other developers can still build apps for Windows 8 and Windows RT. But without access to the same APIs that Internet Explorer users, they’ll be at a major disadvantage and may not be able to offer the same kind of performance on ARM-based devices.
There’s a chance that Microsoft could change its tune by the time Windows RT is ready to launch later this year. But if not, CNET reports that Mozilla’s lawyers are considering legal action as a last resort.
Microsoft has been down that road before, having faced a number of anti-trust lawsuits over its bundling of Internet Explorer as the default web browser with earlier versions of Windows.