Riding Firefox's popularity into the OS market

posted Feb 20, 2013, 1:08 AM by Raymond Han   [ updated Feb 20, 2013, 2:01 PM by Unknown user ]

Mozilla has finally stepped its game up and decided to expand on the mobile frontier! The developer of the popular web browser, Mozilla Firefox, recently released its own mobile operating system, Firefox OS. This next generation system is built entirely on open web standards, and is basically powered by JavaScript, which allows the use of HTML and other APIs (application programming interface). This is achieved by using a custom version of Gecko, which is the rendering engine of Firefox. Phones that adopt this operating system will boot into a lightweight Linux kernel, which in turn boots into Gecko. But what is actually special about it? What will allow it to compete with the current market leaders (Android and iOS)?

Firstly, Firefox OS, with its JavaScript powered system, unlocks a huge mind-boggling multitude of possibilities that aren’t readily available to developers with standard platforms. The biggest one is that it allows you to create your own mobile applications with existing software used to build websites; mainly JavaScript, HTML and CSS. While not completely unique to Firefox OS, it is the most efficient and effective way of doing it, as you do not need to learn native languages and such. JavaScript is also very well-documented and is completely free! Hypothetically, with the correct skill, you would not need to buy anymore apps, as you could develop all of it yourself with Firefox OS.

More fascinatingly, it can apparently allow physical devices to communicate using the same APIs that we use for websites. Essentially, the whole operating system can access the internet, instead of just the browser, creating a seamless integration with the web. This means that unlike other phones that lock you into one proprietary platform, Firefox OS achieves a truly ‘open’ platform, meaning you can move between gadgets easily with much more freedom and application portability; Firefox’s apps will be available on all devices.

But that’s not all! Mozilla Corporation has just announced that along with their operating system, they will be producing 2 phones to complement it! The 2 models, Keon and Peak, are planned to arrive in the first half of this year. The Peak model is more advanced than the Keon, with a 8 megapixel camera and higher computer processing capabilities. Unfortunately, these devices pale in comparison with the more established Apple and Samsung phones in the physical specs field. Mozilla’s HTML apps are still being developed, and so is therefore still not as fast as their enhanced apps too.

However, because the technology actually used is not as advanced as the others, Firefox can boast a cheaper price than most other smartphones on the market and is lighter and more smooth-running. But this is all beside the point; the main selling point is the operating system itself, and thus not that many phones have to be sold for Mozilla to continue to climb the mobile ladder. In any case, Firefox’s (the web browser) 450 million users is no small matter if even a percentage of them decide to utilise Firefox OS.

Right now, Firefox OS does not have the capabilities to become a major competitor with Apple and Samsung; it is still being developed, with promises of updates, improvements and new versions. But perhaps, soon it will reach a breakthrough and become the next dominator, because this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are unlimited possibilities, options out there. What else can JavaScript improve? Would networks of JavaScript devices be the start of ubiquitous computing, the notorious era of ambient intelligence where information processing has been integrated into everyday objects and activities? There is so much space to expand. Will Firefox OS reach the revolutionary breakthrough and lead the world to the next stage of mobile technology or will it join the ranks of failures that got dominated by Apple?