The Firefox People Are Building A Mobile OS

browser fight safari chrome ie firefoxEverybody else has a mobile platform so why can’t we?

Photo: Dylan Love

Mozilla — the organisation behind the Firefox Web browser — plans to build a “complete, stand-alone operating system for the Web” called Boot to Gecko, or B2G. It is being designed for mobile devices.Why? Because the foundation wants to make sure that developers can build Web apps — particularly HTML5 apps — that are equal to native apps.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because Google’s ChromeOS has a similar goal — to turn Web apps into desktop apps — and a similar open-source pedigree.

But ChromeOS is subject to business conflicts with Google’s other operating system, Android.

Android is not quite as “open” as Chrome, but Android is a huge commercial success, with more than 500,000 device activations every day. ChromeOS is not — the first Chromebooks are getting panned by reviewers and are interesting mainly as an an academic exercise (“hey, what if we turned the Web into an operating system?”)

So the Mozilla project is taking the basic ChromeOS idea and focusing it on the mobile market where Android plays — for instance, B2G will have ways for developers to get at phone functions like placing calls and taking pictures. At a very low level, the kernel is based on Android.

It’s an interesting idea, but to move beyond an academic exercise and into real-world shipping products, B2G will have to get some big commercial company to adopt it.

Maybe it could form the basis of that long-rumoured Facebook phone. Or perhaps another big player with mobile ambitions, like Amazon, might take the fledgling OS under its wing.

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