Tablets, laptops, and Chromebooks power Netscape's unlikely revenge

Microsoft crushed Netscape the first time around, but the old browser maker's predictions for mobile tech are coming true

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But for $200, it's a pretty good deal. That's half the cost of a copy of Office Professional 2013 or slightly less than an upgrade to Windows 8 plus a year's subscription to Office 365. The bigger picture: It's no longer Microsoft's way or the highway.

Yesterday at Mobile World Congress 2013 Firefox announced its own OS for mobile devices, entering what has suddenly become a very crowded and competitive market. The difference between Firefox OS and Apple iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, and the Chrome OS? It's an "open OS" based on HTML5, which means you aren't forced to get all your apps from one place and one place only. And it's free, developed by the not-for-profit that emerged from the ashes of Netscape.

Mozilla hasn't announced any plans to port the OS to tablets or laptoplike devices such as the Acer C7, but it's not hard to imagine somebody doing just that.

This is all good, right? Not necessarily. OS wars can spur innovation, even in grouchy old dinosaurs like Microsoft. But they also make life more confusing for everyone -- from end-users who have to learn multiple ways of doing the same thing to IT organizations that have to grapple with supporting different OSes and/or fighting off demands from users who want their cool new toys and want them now.

We're seeing that with the iPad and BYOD in general. Throw Chromebooks and Foxbooks into the mix, and it gets even uglier even faster. There's a reason why technology tends to favor monocultures and why Microsoft has ruled the roost for so long. It wasn't thanks to superior technology.

It's going to be an interesting few years before everything sorts out and the wannabe OSes fall by the wayside. For all we know, Microsoft could lose the battle for all mobile devices, not just phones; in three or four years, many of us could be carrying Foxbooks and Foxtabs.

Wouldn't that be something? We could call it Netscape's revenge.

Would you drop Windows (or Mac) for a Chrome or Firefox-based device? Why or why not? Share your OS insights below or email me:

This article, "Tablets, laptops, and Chromebooks power Netscape's unlikely revenge," was originally published at Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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