SOFTWARE DEVELOPER Mozilla has started work on building a Windows 8 Metro version of Firefox.
Microsoft's Windows 8 will ship with the alternative Metro user interface that requires applications to use specific application programming interfaces (APIs). Of course Microsoft's Internet Explorer web browser will have a Metro version, but Mozilla said it has started work on writing a Metro version of its Firefox web browser.
Mozilla's Brian Bondy said the outfit did some preliminary work on getting a basic application working in Metro. However Bondy complained of poor documentation on Microsoft's part and a general lack of public knowledge, saying, "To get started we read the MSDN whitepaper entitled Developing a Metro style enabled Desktop Browser. This document lacked quite a bit of information though so a lot of registry hacking was needed to get things working. Jim [Mathies] and I documented a lot of this missing information...."
Bondy added something that just about every developer can relate to, saying, "As a developer, your job gets pretty hard when you do a Google search for topics surrounding this barely supported third Metro application type and consistently get zero, one, or if you are lucky, two search results. All results being only slightly on topic." Clearly Microsoft's in-house developers have a significant advantage over the pack, given the firm's intimate knowledge of the APIs and WinRT.
Trials and tribulations aside, Bondy confirmed that Mozilla will be using the Windows Runtime C++ Template Library, adding that Mozilla might also use the C++/CX language, a version of C++ with specific extensions for WinRT, Microsoft's Metro style programming model.
Bondy said the user interface will be generated using Microsoft's DirectX renderer. Although that sounds compatibility alarms, Bondy said that Microsoft's system requirements for Windows 8 include DirectX 9 support.
Given that Microsoft's Metro user interface will feature prominently on Windows 8 tablet devices, it is imperative that Mozilla and other web browser developers keep Microsoft honest, otherwise history tells us quite vividly what might happen. µ
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