Mozilla, the organization that brought the world the Firefox browser and other applications, thinks we need another mobile operating system. I don't think so, but the efforts of Mozilla and some big-name companies could be valuable for the future of wireless Internet development.
This is all part of Mozilla's "Boot to Gecko" project, designed to develop an open-source mobile operating system based on Web standards. (Gecko is the software, called a "layout engine," on which Firefox is based. You might be familiar with another layout engine, WebKit, on which such browsers as Safari and Google Chrome are based.)
The Boot to Gecko's mobile OS includes a Linux kernel, parts of which also are used in Android, but it's not an Android phone and won't run Android programs. Mozilla's mobile OS is, in effect, a Web OS that's based on HTML5 and uses Web applications in a browser. It seems similar to Google's Chrome OS efforts, which also emphasize HTML5 and Web applications.
Mozilla's OS is designed for cellphones and tablets, which the organization calls Open Web Devices. Mozilla's OS will be completely open, and the organization is submitting it to the World Wide Web Consortium in the hopes of it being approved as a Web standard.
Indeed, standardization is a major goal. The Web applications will open in a cellphone's browser. They are designed to avoid the problem of a user with one version of a traditional mobile operating system, such as Android, not being able to open a regular application because it won't run on the cellphone's OS version. HTML5 apps should run on any HTML5 browser. As Mozilla proclaims, "The Web is the platform."
But Mozilla isn't just working on the OS and applications. It's also working with Qualcomm for a chipset to work in Boot to Gecko cellphones, and with Telefónica to help develop the software phone. In fact, Telefónica says it was working on a similar OS when it decided to merge forces with Mozilla. Also, Deutsche Telekom will use the testing resources of its Innovation Laboratories, although it isn't participating, so far, as much as Telefónica.
Telefónica helped Mozilla develop the software that was demonstrated in Barcelona in a phone running the Mozilla OS, which also is demonstrated in a video. The phone can make calls as well as run such apps as Twitter, Google Maps, Google Books, YouTube, games, and, of course, Firefox. The phone is sometimes slow and doesn't always respond to the first tap on the screen; sometimes another tap is necessary. But it's early in the development cycle so it's not fair to judge.
One reason Boot to Gecko's Open Web Devices might be worth considering is their price. The OS isn't as complicated as other mobile operating systems, which could result in phones that don't require as much processing power as other handsets. Carlos Domingo, Telefónica Digital's director of product development and innovation, says phones based on Boot to Gecko could run at 600MHz and cost a tenth as much as an iPhone. This could allow people who can't afford smartphones to obtain some of the capabilities at feature phone prices.
However, since some iPhones can be had for free or $99, depending on the country, we'll have to see what an Open Web Device will cost, assuming any of them make it to the market.
Although I'm a fan of Mozilla's efforts in general, and wish the vendor well with Boot to Gecko, I'm not optimistic that we'll see many -- or any -- Open Web Devices succeeding in the market. It reminds me too much of Google's Chromebooks, which have been a dud. However, I applaud Mozilla's efforts to promote mobile open-source software, HTML5, and Web applications that will inevitably help foster wireless Internet evolution.
Interesting. However, the challenge will occur on two fronts: Open-Source and Andriod. Being open-source how secure will applications be on a cellphone? Based on issues with security of the Andriod, how much trust will be placed in any phone running a Mozilla Mobile OS.
I think the iPhone will continue to dominate for some time...
Yes, because of the potential for interference, white spaces spectrum in major markets will be in very short supply, so it can't be a nationwide network. However, as I noted, there will be available spectrum in more rural areas for local and regional networks.
Alan, Looks like the FCC restricts whitespace usage in populated urban areas, favoring TV broadcasts and banning any kind of inadvertent interference.. which means whitespace spectrum is effectively reduced so that it would be very difficult to be used as a replacement for a traditional cellular network. The current 3G cellular network uses 90MHz of bandwidth whereas the whitespace spectrum is restricted to just 60MHz...
Unless the situation has changed since I wrote the ThinkerNet blog about white spaces, there's a significant problem with finding enough of that spectrum in many large markets. But in medium sized markets, small markets and rural areas, it could be useful.
White spaces seem more appropriate for specific local or regional communications.
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