Mozilla Building Android Based Mobile OS to Rival Chrome/Android


Today, Mozilla (the Firefox guys) revealed their plans to build an operating system very much like Google’s own Chrome OS where apps run off of a browser but for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. The project is being codenamed “Boot to Gecko” because it takes the Gecko engine from Firefox and transforms it into an open-source operating system. Sound familiar? Well, it should.

It’s not too much unlike the idea behind our beloved Android operating system and is bringing back memories of that Mozilla concept phone running off of Android. In fact, Boot to Gecko will actually be based off of Android even thought Mozilla’s VP of Technical Strategy insists they will try to, “use as little of Android as possible.” Basically, they need Android’s kernels and drivers simply to get the device booting.

Taking to heart the idea of open source, developers working with the project intend for it to become a “complete, standalone operating system for the open web.” Instead of building apps using the Android SDK, the platform will instead focus on HTML5 based applications. The company wrote on their blog:

“We will do this work in the open, we will release the source in real-time, we will take all successful additions to an appropriate standards group, and we will track changes that come out of that process. We aren’t trying to have these native-grade apps just run on Firefox, we’re trying to have them run on the web.”

Which devices can we possibly expect to run this new Mozilla OS? Shaver mentioned that the company is looking towards Nvidia Tegra 2 devices because they offer hardware acceleration of open audio and video formats.

As far as their intentions go, Mozilla’s Andreas Gal says their ultimate goal is to break “the stranglehold of proprietary technologies over the mobile device world.” Reminds me a lot of Android when it first started. Android has done pretty well for itself when faced against closed OS’s like Apple’s iOS and although Boot to Gecko is still in its infancy, it’s interesting to see another open source rival step into the ring. Maybe we’re closer to the Mozilla Seabird than we thought…

[Via Mozilla]

Chris Chavez
I've been obsessed with consumer technology for about as long as I can remember, be it video games, photography, or mobile devices. If you can plug it in, I have to own it. Preparing for the day when Android finally becomes self-aware and I get to welcome our new robot overlords.

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  1. They can’t even make a fast web browser on Android. How can they do anything else if they can’t even master the god-forsaken browser?

    1. FF 6 Beta is arguably just as good as Dolphin 6. It loads only slightly slower and will continue being optimized.

      I spoke to a Mozilla guy at a conference recently and he tipped me of to this OS. There are MANY promising developments coming that I don’t think Google will be able to deliver with Chrome OS, especially since it isn’t going to compete with Android on mobile devices anytime soon.

      So long as BrowserID, the death of the app store, and hardware acceleration for HTML5 apps is implemented, Seabird will be very difficult to defeat. The main competitor would actually be Windows 8 in this regard.

      To compete, Android is going to become more like Chrome OS before we hit Android 5.0. I can almost guarantee this. The question is: will it be too late?

      1. Well, you would also need developer support for those HTML5 apps. Especially ones designed for smaller mobile screens.

        1. More developers prefer web technologies for their apps than they do OS specific implementations. They would rather code it once, with configuration settings/scaling for different locales and form factors, than have to code it once for Android, again for iOS, again for WP7, again for webOS, and of course once more for their web app.

          HTML5 still has a ways to go, but once it gets here you will see much more widespread dislike for the mobile app industry. Things will drastically change once Firefox is able to utilize your computer’s hardware, in turn doing the same for mobile and giving birth to its browser/OS hybrid.

          Just for a taste – they’ve already successfully created a web app that lets you record video and sound and play it back on the web. This was achieved via HTML5, Javascript, and Firefox.next alone.

  2. Great, nothing is better than competition. Go for it Mozilla.

    1. Right idea here. Even if this thing only has one good feature about it, and it pushes at android, android will end up improving for it. I hope they give it everything they’ve got.

  3. Ok Mozilla, you have my attention on this one…

  4. this is a bad idea.

    1. explain…

  5. so.. it’s basically the smartphone version of chrome OS? Sounds horrible. I have a chromebook(from I/O) and the only reason I would use it over my tablet(also from I/O) is the keyboard. The functionality is so limited I have trouble finding reasons to use it.

  6. Google needs to invest in this project as an incubator

  7. So, Mozilla, what is the business model for this? Ad? You may be got creamed by Google. Apps? Again, got creamed by Android.

    And oh, prepare to get tackled by Oracle early on..

  8. That seabird has some cool features, that I think would make the phone too expensive, but its its manageable on a decent budget then I am all for it.
    About the chrome/mozilla phone…..great idea, but I have to agree with Google, that mobile devices have such an unstable internet connection that it would hardly work

    Maybe in the future when phones are connected to the web 99.9% of the time even in deserted isolated regions….and when the speed of those networks is at least 3g and hopefully 4g…..THEN this would work….that is what I think at least

    1. HTML5 has loads of offline and data storage additions that can allow applications in a browser to store stuff until there’s on connection later. This OS won’t need a persistent connection.

    2. I see them pushing this as not just a replacement phone or tab but laptop. You could take this anywhere and at colleges you can connect to wifi throughout the campus. That’s if it works out to be ideal… I’m sure it’ll have it’s own bugs but I’m a fan of competition too.

  9. How do I mark posts as a spam?

    1. unbelievably, it appears as though we can’t. There’s not even a downvote button to vote it into obscurity.

    2. Put your cursor on a post and near the number of likes, a little flag icon appears. Click on that and then “Yes, flag as inappropriate.”

    3. click on the little flag in the bottom middle of the post. (it only shows when your mouse is over the message.)

  10. I understand it will be just like Firefox, every single time you add a new app, or an app updates itself, you’ll have to reboot.

  11. All I know is FF 5 in OS X is a total resource hog (and causes all our Macs to come to a halt), I’ve stopped using it completely. I saw some comments that FF 6 beta shows some improvements but IMO FF has become the new Netscape and Chrome has become the old (good) FireFox…

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