Robert Nyman, a Mozilla technical evangelist and editor of the Mozilla Hacks website, provides a perspective on the history and evolution of Firefox OS in this LinuxGizmos guest column. Nyman writes on the occasion of the first Firefox OS smartphone, the $90 ZTE Open, becoming available for sale in Madrid, Spain.
Mozilla, Gecko Archive
Over the weekend, the crew at Tom's Hardware was busy testing the recently-released Firefox 22 using the usual bevy of benchmarks. This roundup included Chrome 27, Firefox 22, IE10, and Opera 12, along with the new Chromium-based build of Opera Next (alos known as Opera 15).
"Mozilla today announced that the regional launches of Firefox OS smartphones will begin soon. Deutsche Telekom and Telefonica will release the first Firefox OS devices, the ALCATEL ONE TOUCH Fire and the ZTE Open, soon. Individual partners will announce specifics about launches in each market soon." Lots of soons in there.
"Mozilla and Foxconn have officially announced a partnership and confirmed that the two firms are developing at least 5 new devices, including a tablet computer. At a press conference today at Computex 2013 in Taipei, Li Gong, CEO of Mozilla Taiwan, and Young Liu, General Manager of Foxconn innovation Digital System Business Group, unveiled a new tablet prototype model designed for an unnamed OEM."
Geeksphone will be launching the first Firefox OS devices tomorrow. "With the startup shipping worldwide and pricing the devices reasonably low, you can bet that many developers who've been eager to start building apps for Firefox OS will be tempted by Geeksphone's offering and not interested in waiting for the majors to come to market. Geeksphone can theoretically manufacture up to roughly 5000 devices per day, but that all depends on if there's enough demand down the line. Either way, we've confirmed that Geeksphone will start shipping the first ordered phones by the end of this week."
Big news from Mozilla and Samsung today: the two have been working on a new browsing engine together, developed from the ground-up to be completely new, and it's written entirely in Rust, a new safe systems language developed by Mozilla. "Rust, which today reached v0.6, has been in development for several years and is rapidly approaching stability. It is intended to fill many of the same niches that C++ has over the past decades, with efficient high-level, multi-paradigm abstractions, and offers precise control over hardware resources. But beyond that, it is safe by default, preventing entire classes of memory management errors that lead to crashes and security vulnerabilities. Rust also features lightweight concurrency primitives that make it easy for programmers to leverage the power of the many CPU cores available on current and future computing platforms." The work is on-going, but of course, all code is out there right now.
"Still, Firefox OS could have a big impact on the Web even if it never gains significant market share. By pushing the Web forward, Mozilla is helping to ensure that mobile websites will continue to be relevant even as developers create hundreds of thousands of proprietary apps. Firefox could lose the battle for the smartphone OS market but still win the war for open standards."
"Jay Sullivan, Mozilla's VP of Product, has revealed that the not-for-profit organization is not going to build an iOS version of its Firefox web browser as long as Apple doesn't mend its unfriendly ways towards third party browsers." So that would most likely be never.
"Firefox OS could actually be wildly successful, no matter how underwhelming the actual phones may be. And that's because - at least for now - you're not the customer; your carrier is." I'm extremely disappointed by Firefox OS so far. There's nothing wrong with the low-end hardware we've seen during MWC, but there is something wrong with low-end hardware that can't even properly run its operating system. To make matters worse, carriers are the boss here. Terrible first impression.
"'But how is it going to beat Android or iOS?' That's the reaction many people have when I tell them that I am working on Firefox OS, the new mobile operating system from Mozilla. It is a logical reaction. After all, we live in times where every major software company and its mother is releasing a mobile platform, struggling to lure developers into their new proprietary environment, APIs, libraries, etc. And indeed, many of these companies barely make it or don’t make it at all. But Firefox OS will not be directly battling against other mobile platforms. Its main objective is to change the way the world develops mobile apps, and even in the unlikely event that Firefox OS itself disappears in the process, if web-apps become mainstream, it will have succeeded."
"This week we are announcing our new Firefox OS developer preview phones because we believe that developers will help bring the power of the web to mobile. These developer phones are being developed by Geeksphone in partnership with Telefonica and Geeksphone." Loving the orange.
"In August, Mozilla's Director of Research Andreas Gal, and one of the lead engineers for Firefox OS, Philipp von Weitershausen, gave a couple of presentations in Brazil about Firefox OS. We're now happy to share both the videos and the slides, in various formats for you to see or use, giving your own presentations!" Lots of background on Firefox OS.
"Just under a month ago I wrote a personal post about my thoughts on Firefox OS and why I think there is something 'magical' about what it stands for and the possibilities it brings to the table. This post is a follow-up that aims to cover much of the same ground but with extra detail and more of a technical focus."
"Much like various versions of Firefox, the overall concept here is premium and of quality, but not because its expensive. Good quality design should be accessible to masses much like our products. Our strong focus is on high quality and distinctive design in the marketplace." Fantastic overview - quite detailed - about the UI design behind Firefox OS, from Patryk Adamczyk.
"It's no secret that Mozilla has been working on a mobile OS. Previously codenamed Boot2Gecko, the project focused on a purely HTML5 based system that worked in many ways like current mobile devices. As the project grew into Mozilla OS, the company has laid out a partnership with ZTE that will have real world devices in certain markets early next year. Testing for this OS had previously consisted of a compiled ROM that would be flashed over a handful of Android devices. Now, Mozilla has moved into full fledged product evaluation mode with their own custom developer phone." Looks decent - and a better solution for testers and developers than custom ROMs.
"Over the past year and a half I've been spending more and more of my time working with Mozilla's latest project, Firefox OS. During that time I've fallen in love with the project and what it stands for, in ways that I've never experienced with a technology platform before." I'm not convinced just yet. I hope it succeeds, but I just doubt it actually will.
"The smartphones going into the world's next two billion pairs of hands may not belong to either Google or Apple, but to Mozilla. The Mozilla Foundation, which oversees open source software projects like the Firefox Web browser, expects to release a mobile operating system for smartphones early next year. Its target market is Latin America, then the rest of the developing world, where smartphones from Apple and Google are still too expensive for most people." Let's hope so, because at the rate things are currently going, we'll end up with like 90% Android, 9% iOS, and 1% other stuff. Who wants that?
Mozilla's Dave Mason, when asked by derStandard.at what the most scary part of Firefox' roadmap is: "It has to be Firefox OS which is a huge step for Mozilla. It is exciting and scary at the same time. This is the first time we had to partner with some other companies to get to the end results so that's a hard transition for us." I commend Mozilla for attempting this. I've been trying out Firefox on my Nexus 7 today, and it's really, really good (save for the interface, which needs some serious Holo love). If this is an indication for what Firefox OS is going to be like - good on 'm.
Mozilla has announced it's ceasing development on Thunderbird; one more version will be released, and it'll be security updates from then on. "Most Thunderbird users seem happy with the basic email feature set. In parallel, we have seen the rising popularity of Web-based forms of communications representing email alternatives to a desktop solution. Given this, focusing on stability for Thunderbird and driving innovation through other offerings seems a natural choice." Makes sense - I mean, there's only so much you can do with something that needs to send and receive mail, and I can't imagine Thunderbird having a lot of users. Strange, almost Microsoftian obtuse announcement, by the way.