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Will Knight

A View from Will Knight

Mozilla Will Demo a Smart Phone OS This Year

Boot-to-Gecko could be great for developers, but will any hardware use it?

  • February 14, 2012

The creators of the Firefox Web browser have revealed further details of a bold plan to release a purely Web-based OS for mobile devices.

The Mozilla Foundation’s Boot to Gecko (B2G) project would provide a way for Web applications to access a device’s hardware. This could let Web apps run just as fast as conventional smart phone apps, and make them easier to port to different platforms. We covered Boot to Gecko in this story last year.

Here’s how the foundation describes B2G :

“Boot to Gecko is a project to build a[n] OS that runs HTML5, JavaScript and CSS directly on device hardware without the need for an intermediate OS layer. The system will include a rich user experience, new APIs that expose the power of modern mobile phones through simple JavaScript interfaces; a privilege model to safely and consistently deliver these capabilities to websites and apps with the user in control. Boot to Gecko leverages BrowserID, the Open Web app ecosystem and an identity and apps model that puts users and developers in control.”

In a way, the approach builds upon HP’s WebOS, which was recently released as open source software by HP, following the failure of its WebOS-based devices. WebOS apps make use of Web standards and technologies, but still need to be downloaded to run on a device. 

The roadmap for the project suggests some Mozilla developers are already testing phones running B2G and we can expect to see a Product Demo version of the platform early in 2012.

The challenge for Mozilla, of course, will be persuading phone makers to put its software on their devices. But if Boot to Gecko can gain enough developer momentum, and if Google focuses on delivering a better Android experience on Motorola, which it is close to absorbing—then perhaps some device makers, afraid of falling behind with Android, could be tempted to give it a try.

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