MobileInterview

Andreas Gal on Mozilla's mobile OS

Mozilla's director of research on the evolution from Boot to Gecko

Earlier this month Mozilla announced that it had massive support from network operators for its Firefox mobile OS, which enables phones to be programmed using HTML5. Here Andreas Gal explains how Firefox OS fits with Mozilla's plans to build an apps ecosystem, how it will serve developing markets and what happens next.

.net: Please explain how Boot to Gecko has evolved into the mobile OS project as it is today.
Andreas Gal: The initiative’s origins are in the Boot to Gecko project, which for the first time allowed HTML5 applications to access the underlying capabilities of a mobile phone. Earlier this year Telefnica joined forces with Mozilla to take this work and create the Open Web Devices initiative to drive the creation of smartphones built to this standard. Boot to Gecko and Open Web Devices now becomes Firefox OS.

.net: How this project will serve users in developing markets?
AG: The project is an implementation of new Web standards that bring the power of the Open Web to mobile devices, unencumbered by the rules and restrictions of existing proprietary platforms. Making Firefox OS available to developing markets enables consumers to have access to a high quality smartphone device and experience, at the cost of a feature phone. However, it’s important to emphasise that this initiative is not about bringing even cheaper smartphones to market, it’s about delivering a better performance on devices; especially those are the low price point end of the devices market. Firefox OS will allow an even higher proportion of the population to enjoy a better smartphone experience. Telefnica has already committed to bringing commercial Firefox OS devices to market in Latam in early 2013.

.net: What are other primary aims?
AG: The Firefox OS is a new mobile ecosystem built entirely to open Web standards (HTML5). It will enable the development of smartphones where every feature can be developed as an HTML5 application. The primary aim of the project is to deliver a better smartphone experience to a higher proportion of the population, including at the low end of the device range portfolio.

We are focused on making Mozilla Firefox OS truly open, bringing the benefits of web technologies to mobile and eliminating current roadblocks and limitations. From a developer perspective, we want to provide true cross platform opportunities for application developers, most of who already develop in HTML5.

net: How does this fit in with Mozilla's plans to build an apps ecosystem?
AG: The project is extending what developers can do with the Web, especially in the context of mobile devices, and to do so in a way that leads to interoperable standards.

Today’s operators and developers write apps and services for one platform and then have to rewrite them for others. As a result, users who want to buy phones, e-readers and game consoles from different manufacturers often need to re-purchase apps for each device. With Mozilla Firefox OS, we want to provide true cross platform opportunities for application developers, without the need to learn and develop against platform-specific native APIs.
The Mozilla Marketplace will enable the creation and distribution of apps that can work across any modern device and operating system. For the first time, this will successfully close the technology gap between Web and native apps meaning that consumers who use devices based on the Open Web platform will be able to easily access and download their own content regardless of which OS they use.

.net: What's going to happen next?
AG: In terms of next steps, Telefonica has already committed to shipping the first devices powered by Firefox OS to launch in Brazil and other territories in the region in early 2013.

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