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Firefox Operating Systems Handhelds Mozilla Hardware

Mozilla OS Looking Grown Up On Its Own Developer Phone 114

Posted by timothy
from the fox-in-your-pocket dept.
An anonymous reader writes "It's no secret that Mozilla has been working on a mobile OS. Previously codenamed Boot2Gecko, the project focused on a purely HTML5 based system that worked in many ways like current mobile devices. As the project grew into Mozilla OS, the company has laid out a partnership with ZTE that will have real world devices in certain markets early next year. Testing for this OS had previously consisted of a compiled ROM that would be flashed over a handful of Android devices. Now, Mozilla has moved into full fledged product evaluation mode with their own custom developer phone."
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Mozilla OS Looking Grown Up On Its Own Developer Phone

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  • by pr0nbot (313417) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @06:28AM (#41419821)

    I suppose there will be a degree of negativity about boot to gecko, along the lines of "they've already lost" and "they should focus on fixing the browser".

    Personally, I wish them every success. Firefox has been great, and the idea of a phone OS built by a non-profit whose only agenda revolves around standards, privacy, user control, openness and general sanity will be a refreshing change from the likes of Apple, Google, and Microsoft. It actually seems to be happening, too, unlike so many other projects we hear about.

    (But if you want some negativity - given that they're primarily funded by Google, and presumably don't have a massive patent war chest, they'll probably be sunk if they ever get anywhere. Time to donate!)

    • by goombah99 (560566) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @06:56AM (#41419883)

      So if everyting is HTML5 then presumably this is going to be like WebOS or apple's Dashboard apps? Didn't Facebook recently retreat from HTML5 to native? Then there's the grim history of javas early promise of write once run everywhere. Has HTML5 grown up so much that it can finally pull it off? or is this more than HTML5

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by gl4ss (559668)

        So if everyting is HTML5 then presumably this is going to be like WebOS or apple's Dashboard apps? Didn't Facebook recently retreat from HTML5 to native? Then there's the grim history of javas early promise of write once run everywhere. Has HTML5 grown up so much that it can finally pull it off? or is this more than HTML5

        nokia scaled back a lot of their webruntime promo too(but on there, the interest from developers was mostly to sidestep binaries signing/certification).

        has html5 finally grown up so much? no, it hasn't. not even on desktop. basically they'll have to invent a bunch of extra api's to match even half of native stuff even on windows phone 7 not to mention craploads to match android.

        just imagine writing a spotify client in pure javascript/html5.

        • by burns210 (572621)

          https://wiki.mozilla.org/WebAPI [mozilla.org]

          Exposing some new APIs via Javascript isn't black magic. Phone, SMS, Camera, WebRTC, WebGL, all Javascript APIs that exist and can be tested today and have been in the works for a year or more. All the hardware access you would want is available in Javascript (for sufficiently authorized apps, obviously).

          Writing a Spotify client as an OpenWebApp in pure-javascript is quite possible today. Preferably using something like Opus [mozilla.org] for audio, of course.

      • by the plant doctor (842044) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @08:14AM (#41420093)

        Yes, Facebook did just retreat from HTML 5. However, the difference there is that they were attempting to support how many different hardwares, screen resolutions, browsers, etc.

        Mozilla here can work with it because they are vertically integrated. They can optimize the apps for their phone alone, not worrying about other phones' screen sizes, resolutions, processors, etc. That's not to say it's not still risky. HTML5 is scarcely grown up, IMO.

      • by Lennie (16154)

        Yes, kind of like Tizen and Windows 8 Metro too.

        Although the difference is, all those platforms do have native applications. Boot2Gecko really is just Linux kernel and some userspace code to talk to hardware (think of: wpa_supplicant) and their browser core:

        https://wiki.mozilla.org/B2G/Architecture [mozilla.org]

    • I hope that is easily expandable via plug-ins much like their browser. Don't want a web app to have access to something just disable that with appblock plus. wan't to kill the comic sans font from apps just install comic sans remover plugin. But since it is all browser based will how will app writers not have costumers simply copy the page source for the HTML (presumably a extended version of five) CSS and JavaScript? And what advantage will this have when all of their apps will be usable by everyone else (

    • by Anonymous Coward

      How is it negative to want Firefox improved, rather than having them waste resources on some half-assed "operating system" for phones?

      Firefox is a product that many millions of people actually use on a daily basis. It's also a product that exhibits poor performance and excessive memory usage. That means it's a perfect candidate for improvement. The need for improvement is clearly there, and there are many people who would benefit from said improvement.

      Yes, it is better now than it was several years ago, but

      • by loufoque (1400831)

        Firefox is a product that many millions of people actually used on a daily basis.

        Fixed that for you.
        Most Firefox users already moved to Chrome.

        • by Anonymous Coward
          Troll much? FF's overall market share hasn't changed that significantly. It's been at about a third for a long ass time. The long tail has gotten shorter and the IE idiots grew up and started using other things. Don't mistake your personal and emotional switch from Firefox to Chrome as a trend. You and your 3 friends don't really make a trend, and 76.32% of statistics from blogs range from fucking stupid to fucking made up.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Its users are still BEGGING for Firefox's performance to be improved, and its memory usage to be reduced.

        Firefox is now has lower memory usage than Chrome. Learn to read more than a few troll blogs and STFU because your ignorant. And I'm fucking begging for some mobile OS besides fucking Java and the Apple lock-in and castrate OS. (No, Windows isn't worth mention.) Truthfully I would not use any of the popular mobile OSes if I didn't have a choice.

      • It's also a product that exhibits poor performance and excessive memory usage. That means it's a perfect candidate for improvement.

        As someone who uses FF on a daily basis, I can't help but think these complaints come from people who don't use the software and are repeating old complaints. It's just like PulseAudio.

        I haven't seen memory leakage problems since 3.5 came out, over 3 years ago.

        It's certainly true that something can occasionally misbehave and suck memory/CPU, but that can happen in all browsers and it's usually related to a page with absurd JS or the Flash plugin.

    • Sorry buddy, but Reality is not Negativity. There are millions upon millions of iPhones and Android devices running with lower specs than 256 MB memory and a 700 MHz CPU, and they are very usable and responsive, EXCEPT for web browsing! So if Mozilla wants to fix the problem with low end smartphones, they need to fix their browser first.

      Then they can focus on creating a streamlined smartphone OS based on Native apps, not CPU hogging HTML5/CSS. Mozilla is living in a dream world, where they don't grok the re

    • IMHO, the best thing about this is you get a nice OS without the Google or Apple lock-in (how stupid is it that you have to create an account in order to use your phone?).

      That, and you don't have to be logged in all the time. It's the same as your desktop: you choose the level of privacy you want.

      • by lbenes (2737085)

        IMHO, the best thing about this is you get a nice OS without the Google or Apple lock-in

        How do these inane comments get modded up? My Samsung Galaxy S3 is using the Amazon App Store and my phone's contacts are synced to Yahoo mail. Please explain how Google has "locked me in"? And NO, my phone is not rooted.

        As someone who switched from a browser based Mobile OS, WebOS, to 3GS, and then now Android, I can tell you I will never go back to another laggy HTML based OS. If anything, I'd like to see Android move away from its VM based apps to something like Apple's native apps. Many apps ran better

  • Browser Based OS (Score:4, Insightful)

    by OpenDoors (2736729) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @06:29AM (#41419823)
    I really doubt that this is good direction. It's the greatest lock-down of all time. Every web-app (Google Docs etc) is behind the greatest DRM of all time, just like Blizzards Diablo 3.

    The only reason this haven't ben discussed on Slashdot before is because it's been Google that has been developing fully browser based OS, and Google fanboys have de-routed every intelligent discussion about the merits of Chrome/Firefox OS.

    Sorry, but in my opinion we must stop this development here and keep our native open and closed source apps. You can't even disassemble browser apps, all you have is the front-end. At least with Windows and MS apps I know they are going to stay around and work when I need them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      HTML5 applications can work offline. They already have interfaces for sandboxed filesystems and built in SQL DBs. Granted, apps that have an online component(most of them probably) don't have to release the source for their server software. That is the case with native apps as well though. I suggest you spare some time to review the HTML5 specs. It's actually a pretty good development platform. You may even like it

    • Re:Browser Based OS (Score:5, Informative)

      by Celarent Darii (1561999) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @07:13AM (#41419927)

      You can't even disassemble browser apps, all you have is the front-end.

      Say that again? You just look at the source code, the javascript and it's all there. Maybe not like you want it, but there is nothing intrinsic to browser apps that make them a sort of DRM. If it is written in HTML5, you can look at the code if they make it available - in fact in some ways you can do 'Show Source' in a browser easier than many native apps. Even Google Apps you can do 'Show source' in your browser. In a certain way the web is far more open that native apps, which are painfully difficult to disassemble from the binary.

      The only real problem are the requests from the server - true, they don't often release server software source. But often this is mostly connection to some database. While this can be problematic for open source, it is not intrinsically so. Most web apps can also be written to work offline.

      • Re:Browser Based OS (Score:4, Interesting)

        by cmdr_tofu (826352) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @08:04AM (#41420059) Homepage

        Yeah but you cannot review the code that lives on providers cloud of webservers. For instance althouhg you can view the source to google mail's html and javascript in your browser (and even muck with it using the right ff plugins), there is not any practical way for you to deploy your own gmail on your own server.

        A lot of webaps are open source, but if you dont even control the application when its runnign in. I don't know if I have a side, but there is a big shift. For instance with Microsoft office, Microsoft cannot "track you" using their software. Of course I like OpenOffice more than Microsoft, and even though GoogleApps makes collaboration over the Internet a lot easier, it does mean google can track everyone who is using their software. This is definitely something new and a different kind of evil that Microsoft probably never thought of in the early days of poor connectivity.

        An open source alternative to googleApps that anyone can deploy on their own PlugPC (or other device) server could allow us to transition to web-based apps and protect against being ruled by vendors. I kind of see free software as inevitably becoming better than proprietary software over time.

        • by Lennie (16154)

          Firefox OS does not depend on the network, the whole system support "View Source" just like any webpage. There is no closed source server component.

          All the server projects Mozilla does have actually are all open source projects, like:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firefox_Sync [wikipedia.org] (bookmarks, history, password syncing)

          https://github.com/mozilla/browserid [github.com] Project To allow you to login with only an emil address to sites in similair fashion as OpenID/OAuth, SAML , but is probably easier to use for mere mortals and a

    • by Alef (605149)
      Technologically, you don't really have to choose between a locked down cloud and native only apps. It would be perfectly possible to have independent cloud storage services working with web based applications storing data in open and standardized formats, letting you choose where to store your data and which applications to use to work with it. The problem is it's usually not in the interest of individual corporations to open up in this way -- it's easier to develop when you control the whole stack, and it
      • by Lennie (16154)

        That is exactly what the Unhosted project is all about:

        http://www.unhosted.org/ [unhosted.org]

        "Unhosted web apps do not harvest user data onto a server. For both users and web developers this has many advantages over the more server-centric web 2.0 architecture that's typically used in web-based Software-as-a-Service (hosted web apps), and in same-origin AJAX apps (so called "one-page apps") that use one tightly coupled backend."

        "Because unhosted web apps don't force the use of their servers on you, you can sync your data

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      The only reason this haven't ben discussed on Slashdot before is because it's been Google that has been developing fully browser based OS, and Google fanboys have de-routed every intelligent discussion about the merits of Chrome/Firefox OS.

      You, sir, are either a troll or insufficiently familiar with the debate here to make such declarative statements. I have debated at length here on slashdot the lack of merit of having an operating system which boots directly into a browser, and my comments have been relatively well-received. Comment invalidated.

      You can't even disassemble browser apps, all you have is the front-end.

      What does that even mean? It's a lot of nonsense. HTML5 has offline apps. You will be able to browse through these apps, twiddle their sources, et cetera. Indeed, you will have more power to do this

      • No, that person is absolutely right. This [slashdot.org] will happen any time you say something Google doesn't like.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          No, that person is absolutely right. This will happen any time you say something Google doesn't like.

          Welcome to the world of groupthink, citizen. Unhappy thoughts are double-plus unacceptable to the bore collective.

    • by afgam28 (48611)

      Sorry, but in my opinion we must stop this development here and keep our native open and closed source apps. You can't even disassemble browser apps, all you have is the front-end. At least with Windows and MS apps I know they are going to stay around and work when I need them.

      From a technical point of view, there's nothing stopping open source apps from staying open after they've moved onto "the cloud".

      Imagine you bought server time, let's say an EC2 instance from AWS. Then you load it up with a webmail server, a storage server, and an open-source Google Docs-style word processor. You could use this EC2 instance to serve you mail, music and documents from anywhere using any device. And you could do it using 100% open source software.

      This is what open source software could look l

  • by gl4ss (559668) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @06:34AM (#41419837) Homepage Journal

    didn't they already announce something like this?

    http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/07/mozilla-dumps-boot2gecko-name-firefox-os-tktktk/ [wired.com]

    the picture in this article sure as fuck looks like a reflashed android though! pretty full fledged, but that's zte for you..

    • my question is: how easy is it to get on good side of FAA (or your country's fly-or-no-fly agency)...?

      It sounds a lot like WebOS to me.

  • by dutchwhizzman (817898) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @06:51AM (#41419867)
    How is this different in architecture from HP's WebOS?
    • iOS KOed WebOS because native iOS apps crushed and humiliated web apps. FireFoxOS is just another ring entrant to get knocked down.
      • by MSG (12810)

        WebOS's failure in the market had nothing to do with native iOS apps. WebOS and its applications were great, but the implementation was awful. The OS wasn't stable, so the phones weren't reliable.

        For usability, I was disappointed when I moved to an Android phone. However, having my alarms actually ring every time was quite welcome. I couldn't trust WebOS notifications.

    • by lbenes (2737085)

      How is this different in architecture from HP's WebOS?

      In Principle they are the same idea, except WebOS uses the lean webkit engine to render the desktop, while Firefox OS, uses the resource hogging Geko engine.

      As a former Palm Pre Plus and Firefox user, I am a poster child as to why this is a terrible idea. I switched from Firefox to the webkit based Chrome because it was the was so much leaner and faster. I also had to leave my webkit based Pre, for a NATIVE powered iPhone. And while I dearly miss WebOS's beautiful and intuitive UI, I do not miss the dog slo

  • nice (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gedw99 (1597337) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @06:55AM (#41419881)

    i have been running this on my laptop for curiousity value.

    it works very well, and writing new applications for it is very very easy because its just all web development with html, jsand css.
    makes it very quick and easy.

    also webgl works. Unlike Iphone and android.

    i actually think that this will be big, but take time for people to appreciate it.
    for companies and startups its hell getting android and iphone apps out, but with this is easy peasy.
    the main thing will be that cordova (phone gap) support it, so that people can write in web technologies and still deploy to android, iphone and firefox os easily

    • by Anonymous Coward

      it is very very easy because its just all web development with html, jsand css.
      makes it very quick and easy

      See, that's the problem with the HTML5-craze. Webdevelopers rejoice because they (think) they can write "apps" with the technology they know, and thus it must be good technology.

      HTML was never meant for apps. Javascript was never meant to be a language for writing full-blown applications. As someone with 10+ years of creating websites, CMS'es and web-based applications I can only conclude that they both suck for writing mobile apps. Also compatibility between these HTML-based platforms (FirefoxOS, Tizen, Ph

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        HTML was never meant for apps.

        Really quite irrelevant.

        Javascript was never meant to be a language for writing full-blown applications.

        Substantially more relevant. However, it should not be a problem for most types of apps people want to run on a cellphone.

        What I don't get is why anyone would want a Web OS notebook, let alone desktop.

      • by Lennie (16154)

        Actually, HTML5 was specifically created to make "apps".

        Also I believe Firefox OS, PhoneGap, Tizen all use the W3C widgets standard to for defining HTML5-based applications.

        Funny you mention QML, as it clearly derived from HTML.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 22, 2012 @06:56AM (#41419885)

    From what I've read of B2G/Mozilla OS is that it will be lightweight and be able to run on cheap low-end phones. If it can deliver a smooth, slick interface and/or longer battery life on cheap phones better than equivalent android phones then it could well take market share. The way way we will find out is when they start shipping.

    • by Karlt1 (231423)

      "From what I've read of B2G/Mozilla OS is that it will be lightweight and be able to run on cheap low-unend phones. "

      How is a 700Mhz Arm with 256MB "low-end"? The first iPhone could run a browser and responsive apps on a 400Mhz ARM and 128MB Ram. The first Android devices were similarly low power. Chinese manufacturers like Huwaii are already selling Android phones unsubsidized for less.

      Do you really think you can get more responsive apps running Html+Javascript than native apps?

    • From what I've read of B2G/Mozilla OS is that it will be lightweight and be able to run on cheap low-end phones.

      LIGHTWEIGHT?!?, just like their browser Firefox, right? I switched to Chrome for a reason, and that was because Firefox was a bloated CPU, memory sucking pig. The idea of Firefox being the ideal technology for low-end smartphones is laughable.

      The whole idea of using HTML, CCS, and JavaScript as the back end technology for a low-end smartphone is nuts. Even the best HTML rendering engines (Mozilla's Geko is not one of them) are CPU and memory hogs. CSS was never designed for and is nearly impossible to hardw

  • Has anyone used this OS yet, and can share some thoughts on it?

    I'm a bit worried that it's a low cost (and probably relative slow) phone, while at the same time HTML5 can be a pretty heavy load.

    I myself am not very fond of Android, and I will not buy anything from Apple or Microsoft. IMO The market can use another platform, especially when it is a portable platform with portable apps.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Lets see, the whole ecosystem will depend upon android running gecko at a reasonable speed. The weakest link in any js, css based environment will be the web itself. So essentially the core phone apps that do not connect to the net need to be bullet proof speed daemons to make a dent in the market.
    Big question is how well does the core work when the phone is just being used as a phone, camera, audio recorder/player, video recorder/player or office notation device.

    Speaking from my experience with the Windows

    • by Lennie (16154)

      I believe they will first target the South American market. Why ? Because the iOS and Android based devices are very expensive to import.

      If I understand it correctly Mozilla just makes the software and the carrier delivers (produces, locally sources ?) the hardware.

  • This may be a javascript developers wet dream, but otherwise it has absolutely no selling points. There are already Android apps for damn near everything, including real games that far surpass what HTML5 could hope to do. So we've got a high-end phone, running another incompatible OS that has very few apps available. For what possible reason should people drop the android ecosystem? If they want to run a web app, that's what a web browser is for. The average person won't care about the novelty of an HT

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You should checkout the fully 3D HTML/JS FPS
      https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/demos/detail/bananabread

      • by itsme1234 (199680)

        Oops!

        There was a problem starting Bananabread. Please see the Troubleshooting section below for more information.

        Technical Details: WebGL is missing.
        =======
        That much about web based apps that just work.
        Wiki says:
        "Mozilla Firefox - WebGL has been enabled on all platforms that have a capable graphics card with updated drivers since version 4.0"

        Last firefox, ati 5770, what the heck?

      • Thanks you! You just made my point! My laptop gets 8-15FPS while running this HTML5 web demo in H/W accel. Firefox. When I run the Native version of Cube I get over 100FPS.

        Do you see the problem now? My laptop is much more powerful than that hardware they are targeting, but all of the built in and downloaded apps will be gimped by this HTML "technology".

        For those of you interested, try it out yourself:
        Cube 2: Sauerbraten:
        http://cubeengine.com/files.php4 [cubeengine.com]
        Firefox HTML5 Cube 2 port:
        https://developer.mozilla.org [mozilla.org]

    • HTML5 is quite good when someone implements it properly. Not everyone wants Google sticking their nose in everything they do. This is a good alternative.
    • by Lennie (16154)

      Actually Firefox OS does not tarket the high-end phone market, but the lower end.

      HTML5-applications don't need to depend on a server. Anything which will be on the phone by default will certainly not depend on an Internet connection.

  • "The browser is the OS," ring any bells?
  • by Lennie (16154) on Saturday September 22, 2012 @03:31PM (#41422999) Homepage

    I believe these devices are called "Otoro", because that is what it says on this page:

    "Otoro
            Otoro is a phone being used as a test and development platform as a low-to-midrange smartphone. Most core Firefox OS developers are working on Otoro."

    https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Mozilla/Boot_to_Gecko/B2G_build_prerequisites [mozilla.org]

  • The cool thing about developing apps for this phone is that should be fairly simple for Mozilla to provide a compatibility wrapper for Android and iOS, so you get cross-phone app development.
  • People may buy this product if it is better or at least as good as what's currently on offer. That means offering solid software, solid hardware, and solid services.

    It will be interesting to see if Mozilla can succeed here. They don't have a track record of releasing hits; only the Firefox browser really took off and that's because it was an excellent and better alternative to its competition at the time.

    I just hope for their sake that they don't go with the "it's better because it's open" line. Being

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