One of the most controversial aspects of Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system is the Metro interface, which is designed to straddle the worlds of tablet interfaces and standard desktop/laptop computing interfaces. Many critics of Microsoft’s "reimagined" user interface see it as a weak attempt to chase after the iPad, and see it as not serving the real needs of desktop/laptop users. Now, Mozilla is working on a new version of Firefox that will cater to both the Metro interface and the classic Windows interface. It’s a shrewd move from Mozilla.
It’s no secret that some early Windows 8 users are bent out of shape about Metro. BetaNews reports:
"This is Windows we are talking about, which has been around a lot longer than these other operating systems. Windows already has a rich heritage that is decades old. Rather than spurn the best of that heritage, use it instead….The integration of the two parts of Windows 8 should be so seamless that they act like one. The desktop actually offers some things that Metro currently cannot."
According to a new post from Brian Bondy, a new version of Firefox will work seamlessly with the Metro interface and the classic Windows UI:
"[With the new version}…you can run Firefox as a desktop application, and you can run it as a Metro application. Supporting the Metro side of things will require a lot of new code, so this is a very large project."
Alpha and beta versions of this version of Firefox are to arrive in the second half of 2012. It’s smart of Mozilla to produce a browser that will cater to Microsoft’s two interfaces. Google, with its Chrome browser, remains very focused on its own Chrome OS platform, which the Chrome browser is the interface for. And, Firefox is locked in a neck-and-neck battle with Chrome for market share.
One thing Bondy notes in his post is this:
"Unfortunately a browser can only participate in Metro mode if it is the default browser. So if Firefox is not the default browser on a system, you can’t use it in Metro mode. This is a decision made by Microsoft."
This is no small point. Windows 8 will reach millions of users, and if Firefox can pull of a browser that intelligently caters to multiple Windows interfaces, it could end up being the default browser on many of those millions of machines.
There are a lot of questions outstanding about the Metro-friendly version of Firefox. For example, it’s not clear whether Microsoft will allow it as an app in the Windows store. Most likely it will be there, though, and this browser could create an advantage for Firefox as it struggles to win market share from Chrome.
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