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Microsoft, Mozilla and iOS: Pouting Isn't Fun for Anyone

Philip Elmer-DeWitt:

Two and a half billion dollars.

That’s how much Morgan Stanley’s Adam Holt estimates Microsoft (MSFT) may be leaving on the table by not offering a full version of its Office suite (Word, Excel, etc.) on Apple’s (AAPL) iPads.

But Microsoft hasn’t released Office for iPad. While the usefulness of such a suite of applications is lost on users like me, there’s no doubt the company is leaving (what the kids call) a metric shit ton of money on the table, even with Apple taking 30 percent off the top.

(Elmer-DeWitt notes that Microsoft could make more from selling software on the iPad than on the software bundled on all Windows-based tablets in 2014. That’s crazy.)

Now, let’s turn to Jennifer Van Grove, over at the CBS hostage-held CNET:

Mozilla’s Firefox browser will have no place on Apple devices so long as Apple continues its unfriendly attitude toward third-party browsers, Jay Sullivan, vice president of product at Mozilla, said today.

[…]

The sticking point for Mozilla is not being able to carry over its sophisticated rendering and javascript engines to iOS. Essentially, the organization doesn’t feel like it can build the browser it wants to for Apple’s platform, Sullivan told CNET.

The decision is a risky one. Sure, Mozilla now has Firefox OS and can attack the mobile browser market with low-end smartphones equipped with its browser, but as it stands, Mozilla holds less than 1 percent of the market, according to NetMarketShare. Apple, meanwhile, commands more than 55 percent of the mobile browser market with Safari.

Mozilla’s complaint is mostly a technical one. All third-party and in-app browsers on iOS have to use the Apple-supplied WebKit rendering engine and a slower javascript engine than what Safari enjoys. Sounds crappy, right?

Wrong. Chrome for iOS is still great, despite the fact that it runs on what Mozilla calls a “closed environment.” While it’s not as fast as Safari, as while it can’t be set as the default app, I like the layout of the UI and how it syncs with Chrome on my Mac and PC. Since it’s using Apple’s built-in WebKit tools, pages load quickly and look good.

I think it’s a mistake for Mozilla to whine about not being able to execute its Javascript rendering the way it wants to. In a world where Firefox is increasingly less important, moving to WebKit and building unique and strong features seems like one of Mozilla’s only options.

If Mozilla wants to get in the race, it needs to realize that Apple isn’t going to be changing its rules any time soon and build something worth using. Time’s running out. Complaining about another’s company’s platform rules as your marketshare is shrinking is not a winning strategy.

Let’s take a moment to look at another browser: Opera. For years, the company used a propriety rendering engine, but now Opera is moving to WebKit across the board. While Opera Mini renders things on the company’s servers and pushes weird (albeit tiny) web views to the users, the company’s WebKit-based iOS browser is due any time now.

Microsoft and Mozilla are keeping its products away from iOS because it doesn’t like how Apple does business or runs its platform. In the face of the success that Apple is enjoying with iOS, both of these other companies just look silly at this point.

Pouting children often do.