Metro UI is after all serious business for Microsoft. Despite all the rage against thrusting Metro on non-touch Desktops, Metro is receiving fare share of attention from some software biggies at the very least who think Windows 8 could make it big in the tablet OS wars where currently Apple’s iPad is dominating.
Now joining the Metro party is Mozilla with it Firefox for Metro. Mozilla had already announced the Metro Interface browser for Windows 8 along with the normal desktop browser.
This announcement had been made after Microsoft made it clear that only those browsers which have a Metro Interface can be a default browser in Windows 8. One of the leading Mozilla Developer Brian Bondy in his detailed blog post says that “If a browser does not support Metro, it is seriously at risk of losing the default browser status, and therefore significant market share..”. This makes perfect sense since Vista , although considered one of the worst Windows releases, still easily had a larger market share than Linux and Mac OSX combined until recently. Mozilla definitely would not risk losing crucial market share by ignoring Windows 8 Metro going by this.
So how will Firefox for Metro be built?
Firefox for Windows 8 Metro is being developed in the same Fennec XUL (XML User Interface Language) which was earlier being used in Android version of Firefox. If all goes well with Fennec XUL, Firefox for Metro could be released well ahead of schedule.
Fennec XUL was dropped on Android due to startup performance reasons. Surprisingly Metro is not having any of those issues even on virtual machines.
It is interesting to note that only for browsers, Microsoft has given Metro apps access to Win32 API along with WinRT API. WinRT is the basic API for building Metro apps. The following features along with the screenshots will give you a brief idea how will Firefox for metro be like. Note that, the UX is largely crude at this stage and should not be considered even as an alpha build.
Current Phase and Metro Integration
- The current Metro Start Screen tile for Firefox. The design is still in progress as it is apparent from the screenshot.
- This is how the UI is looking right now. The below screenshot looks like the current UI upon right click. Though the Metro UI specifications and UX design feedback are not even implemented at this stage.
- Metro Snap is already enabled in the current builds. You can snap a Metro app to the right or left of Firefox and still continue browsing.
- HTML file input controls is tied to the Metro File picker already. This supports opening multiple files and saving files in metro as well. Another interesting factor is the selection is not sandboxed unlike other Metro apps.
- Share and Search features in Metro charms are implemented already as well. If you select the Share option in any web page, you can share it via Facebook, Twitter or Mail.
- On the other hand, the Search option in the charms looks for your query in your default search engine. The below screenshot gives you a better idea.
The awesome news for all of us Firefox fans is that most likely almost all the add-ons will be compatible in Metro as well. Which is great indeed. Though questions still looms largely over Microsoft’s censorship in the Metro Store and Adobe Flash integration.
However, Mozilla Firefox is not the only browser building Metro UI browser as Chrome has already confirmed a Metro Version of Chrome to be coming soon. It will be interesting to see if Chrome’s customized flash will work in Metro and if it support the various extensions. The future looks whole lot more exciting with upcoming Metro apps from popular vendors.