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Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 code limitation puts an end to Mobile Firefox

Mozilla is stop development of its Firefox web browser for smartphones running Windows Mobile.

Mozilla is stop development of its Firefox web browser for smartphones running Windows Mobile.

Stuart Parmenter, Mozilla's director of Mobile Engineering, has the details:

While we think Windows Phone 7 looks interesting and has the potential to do well in the market, Microsoft has unfortunately decided to close off development to native applications.  Because of this, we won’t be able to provide Firefox for Windows Phone 7 at this time.  Given that Microsoft is staking their future in mobile on Windows Mobile 7 (not 6.5) and because we don’t know if or when Microsoft will release a native development kit, we are putting our Windows Mobile development on hold.

The reason for this abandonment of the platform is that the Windows Phone 7 platform doesn't support native code development, forcing developers to instead use C# with Silverlight or XNA. The reason for this is that it's easier to sandbox this kind of code than it is to sandbox native code.

Already a platform that claimed to be better suited for developers than the closed ecosystem of Apple's iPhone is feeling awfully claustrophobic.

Mozilla dropping out of the WP7 browser market could be good for Microsoft and Internet Explorer's usage share on mobile platforms. However, if the supplied browser turns out to be lacking, that advantage could quickly become an Achilles' heel.

It's worth noting that both Google and Palm initially had plans to block native code on the Android and webOS respectively, but backtracked because of developer pressure.

Is this a good move? It's too early to tell, but my feeling is that Microsoft is being very cavalier about taking more than a decade's worth of relationships built up with Windows Mobile developers and OEMs and throwing that away so the company can go chasing after Apple. Microsoft is, with one wave of the hand, sweeping away an open, developer-friendly platform and introducing it's own closed-box platform that's years behind the competition.