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March 1, 2012

Boot 2 Gecko: Mozilla's new Mobile Internet OS

Mozilla had announced the launch of Boot 2 Gecko (B2G), a standalone open source web based operating system targeted at mobiles and tablets, in July last year. This project was recently shown at the Mobile World Conference.
Mozilla wants to develop "native" HTML5 apps which will run on top of Gecko, the HTML rendering engine used in Firefox. B2G aims to be HTML5 code extended for device capabilities like Bluetooth and SMS and tie all the "native" HTML5 apps together to give a feel of an integrated OS.
In a roadmap released by Mozilla, the company has set an aggressive schedule and plans to reach product stage by Q2 2012.
Gaia is the planned UI of Boot 2 Gecko IS. It is basically a collection of web apps integrated together to give a unified feel. The initial screenshots released by Josh Carpenter seem to be impressive.

Primary target market
According to Betanews, The end product is expected to be lightweight, with low processing requirements. This will be useful in making devices which are cheap, even before carrier subsidies. If the B2G initiative is successful with good app developer support, smartphone like features can be provided on cheaper phones with the heavy duty work being done on the web.
The device is expected to be able to run normal apps as well as casual games, but will not likely be able to run higher end games or intensive apps, unless the hardware is buffed.
In a blog post Mozilla indicated that Telefonica and Deutsche Telekom have given initial support to the initiative along with Adobe and Qualcomm.
Telefonica operates in Latin America, where this project could be especially useful. In a recent interview wtih CNET, Telefonica's CEO Carlos Domingo also claimed that the device will be 10 times cheaper than iPhone.
Deutsche Telekom has also indicated that its Innovation Labs will join the Boot to Gecko project with dedicated development resources, which will give a boost to the platform.
The project is being developed on Qualcomm chipset.
Firefox phone?
Mozilla has said that it has no plans currently to release a Firefox phone. Presumably it wants the carriers to partner with the device manufacturers to develop the hardware.
While the phone might be reasonably successful in some parts of the world, we do not expect that it will become mainstream as developers will not jump to a platform where earning potential will be low. At the same time, apps developed for B2G will likely require minimum changes to be compatible with major mobile operating systems, and hence there will be no uniqueness to attract users.
It will be a huge challenge for Mozilla to attract developers, carriers, handset manufacturers as well as users who are used to IOS, Android and Windows. It's still a long way off, but if Boot 2 Gecko really succeeds it could make its presence felt at the lower end phones, undercutting Android as well as Microsoft, which recently released its Tango update, causing problems for Nokia at the only market where it currently excels - feature phones.

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