Mozilla's Boot To Gecko Has a Chance to Change Mobile Landscape
Written by Lucy Black
Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Mozilla has found the two partners it needs to change the mobile landscape. Boot to Gecko is now more than an interesting idea, its a challenger to Android and iOS.
Until today Boot to Gecko B2G was simply another operating system for mobiles derived from Firefox. Now Mozilla has been joined by some important partners - Telefonica and Qualcomm. Telefonica is a big enough telecoms company to actually sell some phones running B2G and Qualcomm can make the chips for the hardware.
In one announcement at the Mobile World Congress, B2G has gone from being an interesting idea that was most likely going to fail to be something that could succeed and, in doing so, change the mobile landscape.
We all know that at the moment the mobile world is dominated by iOS and Android with Windows Phone 7 trying to get in on the act. As development environments these all suffer from one problem - they are native platforms and while they can run HTML5 apps, they do so within a browser which makes them less powerful than native apps. Of course, the solution is to try to extend the whole software stack so that HTML5 apps do get some way closer to the native capabilities of the platform - but why do it this way?
Why build an OS and then layer a browser to run underneath it and then build a bridge back up so that the HTML5 app can access the OS?
Why not just make the browser the OS that interfaces directly with the hardware and get rid of a layer of useless code?
This is the idea behind B2G and, while it is far from new, now that a mobile phone operator in the form of Telefonica has endorsed the project, it has a chance of becoming reality.
Mozilla's stated aims are:
To create ans open source web-based operating system for mobile devices.This is the framework for the open web device platform introduced at Mobile World Congress in February, 2012.
The Boot to Gecko architecture eliminates the need for apps to be built on platform-specific native APIs. Using HTML5, developers everywhere write directly to the web; they can create user experiences and apps unencumbered by the rules and restrictions of closely controlled platforms.
As with all Mozilla projects, the source code is open and accessible and the project is based entirely on open standards. Where open standards are missing (including Telephony, SMS, Camera, Bluetooth, USB, NFC), Mozilla is working with standards bodies and other vendors to create them. Please read more in Mozilla and the Mobile Web API evolution.
Since we can get rid of a whole layer of software, B2G can run on much lower powered hardware and this makes it particularly suitable for cheaper phones. There is also the small issue of Microsoft extracting $20 per Android phone in licencing fees. A B2G phone could be as much as ten times cheaper than an iPhone which makes it suitable for markets where carriers don't subsidise the hardware costs.
Of course the advantage to the developer is that all of the phone, not just the browser, would conform to the HTML5 standard. So, for example, the dialler uses standard telephony APIs and so on - everything is an HTML5 app. A standards-based, open source, phone could make a lot of difference to the market.
You can see a very early example of it in action in this video:
What B2G can do for mobile devices, it can also do for the desktop. Who needs Android, OSX or Windows when you have B2G?
Android Studio 2.3 is out and it is an improvement. Even so its users probably would like it to have a better sense of direction and to be given the impression of a project that knows where it's going [ ... ]