Firefox OS to Make Better Mobile Websites

Published on 27 Dec 2012 at 8:13 pm.
Filed under Mobile.

Firefox OS unlock screen.

Firefox OS unlock screen. Is it just me or does this look like a face?

Firefox OS is a mobile operating system from Mozilla. Its goal is to push the boundaries of the open Web as a platform. Why should you care?

Firefox OS: A history of Mozilla

The Mozilla community believes that innovation and the open Web are necessary for the health of the Internet. Firefox rose from the ashes from the browser war of the 90’s to combat Internet Explorer 6. The desktop browser market is relatively healthy. The same cannot be said about the mobile market.

Mobile web browsers do not have the same features available to mobile apps. It does not matter if it’s Android, iOS, or Windows Phone. For example, mobile web browsers do/did not have access to the camera. Safari users were not able to upload images until the release of iOS 6.

Firefox OS highlights these deficiencies. Its focus is to enhance HTML5. By doing this they enhance the web for everyone. Gone will be the need to create mobile apps for every operating system. It is not economical for companies to need to recreate the same app across a spectrum of devices. It requires developers with special knowledge of the proprietary systems. Firefox OS is standard HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript. There are millions of developers with these skills. These are the same skills necessary to build a website.

Strategy for Firefox OS

Other operating systems crowd the mobile market. Android is dominates the mobile market share. Apple’s iOS has a heft mind share and does very well in America. Analysts expect Windows Phone to increase heavily in the next four years. So how does Mozilla plan to compete with powerful smartphones?

The answer is simple. They don’t.

Mozilla aims to compete for the market in developing countries such as Brazil. They will focus on low-cost phones. Mobile phones in these countries are not powerful. Those lucky enough to afford an Android phone are not running the latest version. This the primary reason 2.3 is the most heavily used version of Android. Outdated systems do not help the web. Offering present-level functionality to cheaper phones will enhance the web.

Mozilla knows that web developers would like to see them succeed. They also know that many will not have access to phones from developing countries. They knew we needed a simulator. This week brought the 1.0 release of the Firefox OS Simulator.

As you can see from the simulator, Firefox OS isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty good for most users. They are making changes at a rapid pace. A month ago the Firefox OS Simulator would not launch under Windows. Two weeks ago Firefox OS was at version 0.8. While working on the Website Bookmark Icons post I found that Firefox OS crashed when you launched a bookmark from the home screen. This now works in 1.0. They also changed the lock screen from a simple slide-to-unlock to a swipe-up-to-unlock mechanism. The pace of these changes is breathtaking.

So what do you think of Firefox OS? Is it too idealistic? Do you think their strategy for growth among low-end devices can be successful?

This post was originally published as Firefox OS to Make Better Mobile Websites for The BrandBuilder Company.

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