December 22, 2009

Mobile Firefox Gearing Up For Launch

The new Firefox browser for mobile, codenamed Fennec, is just days away from launch, according to BBC News.

Initially, the browser will only be available for Nokia's N900 phone. More handsets will be supported as time goes by.

Jay Sullivan at Mozilla, the group behind Firefox, told BBC that the browser is "going through final testing and could be released before the end of the year."

According to sources, the software will be able to synchronize with the desktop version of Firefox, which means that any page opened in a user's desktop browser will automatically open in the mobile version.

"At the end of the working day you can walk away from your computer and keep on going on your phone," Mr Sullivan told BBC.

"It encrypts all of the information and sends it back through the cloud between your desktop and mobile."

Barring any unforeseen glitches, Sullivan says Fennec - which has been in development for the last year and a half - should be ready by year's end.

Once public, users will be able to download the browser from the Mozilla website as well as Nokia's Ovi store.

Versions for Windows mobile and Google's Android system are also in the works.

Sullivan told BBC, however, that it would be some time before iPhone users would be able to download the browser.

"Apple is very restrictive. It doesn't allow other browsers. As it's a pretty closed platform we don't see that happening soon," Sullivan added.

Once launched, Firefox will have to compete with the most popular mobile browser, Opera, according to analytics firm Stats Counter.

Coming in second, is Apple's Safari for mobile, followed by Nokia's own browser.

Mozilla hopes the Firefox mobile version will share the success of its desktop browser, which Stats Counter says recently overtook IE7 as the world's most popular browser.

Like its desktop sibling, Fennec will have tabbed browsing and an address bar that doubles as a search box. It will also be the first mobile browser to have add-ons, which will bring functionality to phones that are currently only offered by mobile apps.

"Because it is a browser for a mobile device, the add-ons will be different," said Sullivan. "You'll see ones that use geo-location and exploit how the device is tilted."

Sullivan told BBC that developing add-ons for the mobile browser will be easier than developing apps for individual phones because it relies on already widely-used programming languages like Javascript and HTML.

"Currently, it's really hard for a developer - you have to develop for each app store," he said.

"[With Firefox], you can write it once and it works everywhere."

However, he told BBC that he doesn't believe the browser would completely replace apps.

"They will co-exist," he said.


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