Firefox Browser Planned For Windows 8 Tablets - InformationWeek

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Government // Enterprise Architecture

Firefox Browser Planned For Windows 8 Tablets

Mozilla Intends to develop a version of its Web browser for the Metro interface, but will need some cooperation from Microsoft.

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The Mozilla Foundation plans to release Firefox for a version of Windows 8 that Microsoft is developing for touch tablets that use ARM-based processors, according to a post on the organization's development wiki.

"Firefox on Metro, like all other Metro apps will be full screen, focused on touch interactions, and connected to the rest of the Metro environment through Windows 8 contracts," said the post. Metro is a design theme that Microsoft first developed for Windows Phone and is now employing in Windows 8. Its centerpiece is Live Tiles--blocky icons that feed real-time information from apps to the home screen.

"Firefox on Metro is a full-screen App with an Appbar that contains common navigation controls (back, reload, etc.), the Awesomebar, and some form of tabs," the post said.

A presence on Windows on ARM (WoA) could help boost Firefox's share of the tablet market, though the Mozilla developers appear to be concerned that they might not have access to all the tools they need to convert Firefox to a bona fide Metro app.

[ Beef up your knowledge of WoA. See Windows 8 ARM Tablets: 8 Must-Know Facts. ]

"This proposal depends on Microsoft providing the same capabilities for Firefox as it does for IE--running at the Medium level integrity process that allows us the full use of the Win 32 API and what we need from Metro, or a set of APIs that allow Mozilla to port Gecko to the WinRT," the post said. Gecko is the display engine within Firefox.

"I'm assuming we'll get the first and won't have to port the bulk of Gecko and instead will use the win32 dlls from within Metro," the post continued.

Microsoft has said it's developing two versions of Internet Explorer: one for traditional Windows PCs and one geared for Metro's touch interface. If the company makes it too difficult for rival browsers to run in Metro, it risks drawing scrutiny from competition watchdogs. Regulators in the U.S. and Europe have in the past punished Microsoft for making it too difficult for competitors to launch rival products in Windows.

Microsoft has said that all apps that don't come preinstalled on WoA tablets will have to be downloaded from its forthcoming Windows Store, through which it will maintain tight control over the Metro ecosystem.

Windows 8 is expected to ship later this year, though Microsoft has not confirmed a date. The Windows 8 Consumer Preview is set for Feb. 29.

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