Mozilla Firefox OS Features And Expectations

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Mozilla, the organization behind one of the most popular browsers in the world, is busy developing a new mobile operating system of its own. Competing head-on with biggies like Android and iOS, the fledgling smartphone OS attempts to create its own niche by seamlessly blending the power of the web and the mobility of smartphones together. Codenamed Boot to Gecko (or B2G), the open-source project will include applications that will be written in HTML5. These apps can then use the device's API to run natively with the help of JavaScript.

Though many people have already written-off Firefox OS as yet another late-entrant that's doomed to fail, the open-source project is, in fact, targeting an entirely different market that is not yet touched by Android or iOS. Firefox OS, according to the project's director, will help "pursue the goal of building a complete, standalone operating system for the open web" in order to "find the gaps that keep web developers from being able to build apps that are --- in every way --- the equals of native apps built for the iPhone, Android, and WP7.

Also, Firefox OS targets the low-end market making it easily accessible to the developing world. In fact, the project, if implemented correctly, will bring the whole web to your palm in the most affordable way possible. So, if you're curious to know what's in store for Firefox fanboys and everyone else, here's a look at few of the features and expectations from this upcoming endeavor.

Mozilla Firefox OS is perhaps the simplest operating system developed for the mobile phone. It consists of three main software layers:

1. Gonk: Gonk consists of the Linux kernel and the userspace Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL). It is a simple Linux distribution that developers can easily hook their applications to.

2. Gecko: Gecko is a software layer that implements the open standards for HTML, CSS, and JS.

3. Gaia: Gaia is the user-interface of the OS that includes implementations for lock-screen, tablet support, dialer, homescreen text, and more.


It's quite swift, even on low-spec hardware.

Firefox OS, though looks a tad similar to Android, in fact, functions quite differently. Built using JavaScript, all of its applications are web-based and run on 'open web' technologies. This dramatically reduces the device's cost and thus puts it in the hands of every user. So, since every application is running JavaScript, that too without any middleman, all the apps can thus run in their full glory even on the most low-end hardware.

It's open. Yes, completely open.

If you're tired with all the patent wars, the corporate hunger and the incessant struggle for mobile market dominance, Firefox OS is something you should be waiting for. Firefox OS, by relying almost completely on the openness of the worldwide web, evades the patent traps that Android smartphones fall in to. So, you won't find a copied feature and a billion-dollar lawsuit awaiting Mozilla Corporation.

It's hackable right from the start.

If you're happy having an Android device that you can hack away at any time of the day, you'll be screaming with joy once you see Firefox OS. Since the operating system is written in nothing but HTML, JavaScript and CSS, any web developer can create his or her own Firefox OS experience. Also, even if you're not a web developer, just by reading and following a few tutorials on the web, you can drastically alter the look and feel of your phone. Moreover, being open-source, you can create your own custom Firefox OS and distribute it among your peers.


So, what can we expect from this new entrant in the mobile OS market? Well, first of all, we shouldn't consider Firefox OS as a competitor to Android, iOS, or Windows Phone 7. It is not, and it was not meant to be. However, what we need to see is its adoption in developing countries. With the right manufacturers, the open-source mobile operating system could bring the best features of premium Android and iOS smartphones to the not-so-rich.

Secondly, we'd love to see all the popular Android apps ported to this OS. This will bring in more consumers and might even get Android enthusiasts to think about making a switch.

Thirdly, the whole Firefox OS experience has to be as buttery smooth as possible. If I'm planning to ditch a low-end Android Gingerbread smartphone for this one, it better be good.


We are still waiting for the finished version of Firefox OS to come out, and at this time, it's hard to say whether it will succeed or not. However, one thing we know for sure is that it will create a new market for itself. Whether that market will thrive or not, that's the million-dollar question.

Written by: Abhishek, a regular TechSource contributor and a long-time FOSS advocate.

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