Windows Phone 7: Where’s my Browser?

Padlock
Microsoft has locked itself out of the competition.

With the release of the Mango update back in September, Microsoft undoubtedly improved Internet Explorer on their Windows Phone platform. WP7 now features a full-fledged version of IE9 designed specifically mobile devices, which is leaps and bounds ahead of the browser that was available before the update.

However, many WP7 users like me would love to have Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, or even Safari on their handsets. Why are these popular third-party browsers nowhere to be found on the platform?

Blame Microsoft

For some reason, the folks in Redmond have decided that all web browsing on their mobile OS should be based on Internet Explorer, meaning that any third-party browsers must use the IE rendering engine that is native to the phone.

Developers are limited to customizing the UI of the browser, while using the rendering engine of the phone’s native IE9 Mobile. A few developers have done just that, with varying success. A couple of the most notable browsers available in the Marketplace, Browser+ and Browse On, have done well to improve the lacking interface of IE, but still have their problems.

If Mozilla or Google were to bring their beloved browsers to the platform, they’d without a doubt be great. Unfortunately, they have no plans to do so, thanks to the restrictive nature of Microsoft’s platform.

Microsoft has told developers they’re welcome to try to make a good web browser with Silverlight, the technology that most apps are built with on WP7. As a developer, that doesn’t sound like fun at all. It’s not surprising that Mozilla is ignoring the platform entirely.

Google has several apps available for Android and iOS, including Google+. On WP7, Google currently has nothing more than a Google Search application that, upon clicking on a search result, opens the target page in Internet Explorer. Good grief.

It appears that Microsoft’s close-minded approach to third-party support is keeping some of the industry’s largest hitters away from the platform, which is effectively limiting the platform’s ability to grow into a respectable player in the smartphone market. Frustrating third-party developers is a sure-fire way to frustrate your user base, which is a questionable approach for a company that is trying to strengthen their position in a highly competitive market. Hopefully Microsoft changes their stance on this issue, not only for their own benefit, but for the benefit of their users, and for the benefit of the smartphone market as a whole.

  • http://www.ahmedeltawil.com Ahmed Eltawil

    Well, Apple had the same thing going for a long time till they removed that restriction sometime last year if I am not mistaken. Personally, I wouldn’t want to mess around with another browser. IE9 on WP7 does a great job in performance and in displaying websites. Again, this my personal opinion.

    From a happy Windows Phone user :)

    • http://twitter.com/sombaki Bryant Sombke

      IE9 certainly is not a bad browser on WP7. It just lacks many of the features that make Firefox and Chrome so great.

      Don’t get me wrong, I love my Windows Phone. I just feel that opening up the platform to other major browsers would be a wise move.