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Mozilla shelves Metro Firefox, cites user apathy toward Windows 8

Gregg Keizer | March 17, 2014
Mozilla on Friday abruptly canceled the release of its touch-enabled Firefox browser for Windows 8, just four days before it was to ship and after two years of work.

Of the major browser makers — Apple, Google, Microsoft, Mozilla and Opera Software — only Opera recorded less revenue than Mozilla in 2012, the last year that figures were available for all five. And Mozilla has dedicated considerable resources to Firefox OS, the browser-based mobile operating system that it hopes will put it at the smartphone table. Mozilla cited Firefox OS development expenses as one reason why it's considering pushing advertisements to new users of Firefox on the desktop and why it's handed its browser identity project to volunteers.

Even so, pulling the plug on Firefox Metro was a stunning turnabout for Mozilla, which two years ago said that it had play to win. "It is extremely important that we deliver an awesome Firefox experience on Metro, one that is tightly integrated with the platform, fast, and feature rich," wrote Brian Bondy, the Mozilla engineer who led the Metro development team, in April 2012, six months before Windows 8's debut. "Windows is by far the platform with the most users and which has the biggest effect on market share."

The fallout from the decision has begun: Also on Friday, Bondy, who worked at Mozilla since 2011, announced he had left the company and was joining Khan Academy, an online education firm.

Nightingale echoed Bondy's 2012 expectations Friday, but in hindsight.

"In late 2012 ... [Windows 8] looked like the next battleground for the Web. Windows is a massive ecosystem and Microsoft pushes its new platforms hard," said Nightingale.

Instead, while Microsoft has claimed it has sold 200 million Windows 8 licenses and even backed off the "let-them-eat-Metro" strategy, users have continued to pan the Metro UI, the quantity and quality of Metro apps, and Microsoft's decision to mash two UIs into one OS.

Mozilla's move will be seen a vote of no confidence in Windows 8, even though some at Microsoft may welcome the news because it leaves Internet Explorer with only Chrome as a Metro rival.

"Shipping a 1.0 version [of Firefox on Windows Touch], given the broader context we see for the Metro platform, would be a mistake," said Nightingale.

Ouch.

 

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