Mozilla has opened a beta of its HTML5 app Marketplace, but only for the Aurora Android version of Firefox.
The next big thing is the browser based app. In theory, HTML5 makes this easy, but until browsers support enough of its newer features, plus a way to get apps installed, it isn't perfect.
If you have been waiting for Firefox apps to launch, the good news is that the Marketplace is now open - but only for Aurora for Android, i.e the non-stable release of Firefox for Android devices. This is, very much, a beta release.
HTML5 apps are essential to the use of browsers as a replacement for the operating system. If you prefer, they are a way of avoiding having to write native apps for each platform. In theory each browser should be identical in that they all support HTML5.
For example, currently HTML5 apps have difficulty accessing the internals of a mobile device - the camera say. To get around this problem most make use of an intermediate library - something like PhoneGap or its open source version, Apache Cordova. The big change is that HTML5 is rapidly adding standard APIs that allow you to work with the device internals.
At the moment we have Geolocation, Orientation and Camera but coming soon are Web Telephony, vibration API , WebSMS, screen orientation, settings, power management and many more. When these become available, frameworks like PhoneGap will be irrelevant.
The only real problem is that not all of these future APIs are W3C standards and this means that your web apps might run on Firefox but you will need custom versions to run under Chrome. Chrome currently only supports the Geolocation, Camera and Geolocation API.
What is more, you will need to package and create management facilities for apps that run on Firefox in one way, and in another way for Chrome.
This division of the HTML5 web app scenario is undesirable, but for the moment at least it looks as if it is going to remain.
Mozilla has been working hard on its Firefox Marketplace and when it is complete it will serve Firefox on the desktop, mobile and Firefox OS. Google already has a Web Store for Chrome, but it hasn't created much of an impact. This could all change if the Chrome OS takes off.
The latest news means that Android users can visit the Firefox Marketplace and download some apps to try out - they are all free at the moment. This is good, but if you have been waiting for Mozilla to get its act into gear and allow you to build apps for more general browser platforms, it is still a little irritating. You can use the marketplace to try out the general idea and specifically its APIs for app submission, payments and discovery.
You can host your apps using your own server but this isn't likely to be useful other than for testing purposes.
Of course, all this supposes that users wants to use Firefox on Android. Most are not happy with the Android browser but, since Chrome became the standard browser for Android 4, users are less inclined to download another browser.
This is an interesting time and we are approaching the breakthrough point for HTML5 applications on mobile devices. Mozilla currently isn't helping by being so slow to launch its Marketplace.