Mozilla To Create Mobile Phone Operating System
April 21, 2012

Mozilla To Create Mobile Phone Operating System

Michael Harper for

As the so-called “smartphone wars” rage on and loyalties and allegiance are avowed, one more competitor emerges from the land of the web. Mozilla, maker of popular web browser Firefox, has announced they will begin to develop an operating system for smartphones and has their aim set squarely on Google´s Android. The operating system is codenamed Boot to Gecko (B2G) and will be made available for Brazil´s Telefonica Vivo´s network first.

Brazilian blog ZTOP broke the news of the new handheld operating system first, but did not have any information on who would make the hardware.

B2G will be based on HTML 5 and will be launched on devices between the end of 2012 and early 2013. Mozilla Digital and Telefonica also announced a partnership to develop applications for the operating system. According to Mozilla´s CEO Gary Kovacs, their plan is “making the web available to all users in their pockets."

As it uses HTML 5, the development team hopes the OS will be lightweight, as well as allow any existing HTML 5 web applications to run natively on the phone. This means popular web apps like Scribd, HootSuite, and Aviary would be available to users of B2G.

Developers also hope to bring the same discipline and functionality of the web to smartphones and give users more control of what apps they can run.

According to ZTOP, Kovacs explains the new operating system this way: "It's an open platform to allow complete control of applications, much like a browser, and applications are installed the way you expect. The difference is that they are created with web standards, and we will have links and clicks between apps, something that already happens on the web today, but not in the applications closed platforms.”

Chief innovation officer of Telefonica Pablo Larrieux says Boot 2 Gecko will be completely open source and will run on feature phones first. These phones will also be sold unlocked in accordance to Brazil law.

Mozilla has codenamed the operating system “Gecko” as a nod to the function in Firefox which decides how to display pages in a web browser.

Though they´ve announced development and partnerships, they still refer to B2G as a “project,” saying there are only 3 people working part time on B2G right now.

On their FAQ page, Mozilla describes B2G as “an early stage, exploratory project with the goal of building a complete, standalone operating system for the open Web. It is not a product offering, but if successful, could form the basis for one.”

Mozilla also says they are soliciting suggestions and contributions from many different people.

With their aim at Google´s Android and Chrome, Mozilla says their Gecko project will differentiate itself from the latter by focusing more on mobile and tablet devices rather than netbooks. They also predict some of the changes they introduce will make their ways into all web browsers, allowing all web applications to run on the mobile web.

As far as hardware, Mozilla and Telefonica have yet to announce a partner, though Mozilla predicts the devices will feature a Tegra-2 chipset, due to its hardware acceleration.