There’s an interesting article in Computer World today entitled, “Mozilla’s hypocrisy: It’s OK for Apple to block Firefox, but wrong when Microsoft does it.” The author, Preston Grealla argues that because Apple has a greater market share in tablets, Mozilla should be more concerned that Apple won’t allow Firefox to run on the iPad than they are about Microsoft restricting essential APIs from Mozilla in the upcoming Windows RT. (I’ll get to that in a bit. First I want to talk about hypocrisy.)
Hypocrisy is an interesting choice of words. The colloquial (and technically incorrect) usage of hypocrisy is when someone doesn’t behave as they say others should behave. Under the definition of hypocrisy that most people use, it would hypocritical of Mozilla to fault Microsoft for blocking Mozilla, if Mozilla went off to build an operating system of their own and block another browser. (The proper usage is about not actually having virtues one claims to have, and it’d be vague in this case.) Hypocrisy doesn’t fit.
Sure, Mozilla’s attitude to Microsoft is inconsistent with its attitude to Apple. Maybe it’s because of favoritism, maybe Mozilla’s representatives are being naive, and maybe Mozilla’s picking its battles strategically to set a legal precedent.
My thinking is this inconsistency stems from how Microsoft and Apple brand their ARM-based operating systems. For Apple there is a clear distinction between Mac OS X and iOS; the average consumer should be able to tell that the iPad does not offer the same user experience as an iMac. Microsoft, on the other hand, seems to be branding Windows RT as an equivalent to its desktop versions of windows (except on ARM and restricted to Microsoft’s app market). While few customers would consider hooking up a monitor to their iPads and using it as a desktop computer, Windows RT will have a desktop mode built in.
And what happens if Microsoft keeps Firefox off Windows RT and stops producing x86 compatible operating systems? Microsoft will have control over software installed on its desktop platform and Mozilla will be at a competitive disadvantage. If Apple introduced iPads with a restricted “iMac classic mode,” I’d bet that would get Mozilla’s attention.
As a jailbreaker, modder, and homebrew enthusiast, I want to be able to run arbitrary code of my choice on any device I own. If Mozilla can fight to provide me access to software that doesn’t have to be approved or limited by a corporate entity (that is interested in selling me something), I support that. If they fail there’s always Cydia.
Are Mozilla’s lawyers hypocrites for targeting Microsoft over Apple? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.