Summary:

Now that Firefox Mobile for Maemo is out the door, where will Mozilla turn? The Windows Mobile alpha is long in the tooth, but might it get leap-frogged by Firefox for Android? Here’s a few sites where you can watch the development progress.

firefox-on-android

Now that Firefox Mobile v.1 is out the door for Maemo devices, what’s next on the mobile front for the Mozilla team? Firefox on Windows Mobile has long been in the alpha state, so it’s possible that Microsoft’s platform gets some additional attention. But then there’s that on-again, off-again buzz about Firefox on Android. And with some pegging Windows Mobile growth relatively stagnant as compared to Android’s increased adoption, might it make more sense to devote resources to Android?

Anything’s possible of course, but today’s screenshot of Firefox on Android might be a tip off. I’m not exactly surprised by seeing an early browser version ported to Android, but I didn’t expect to see that version be a desktop version. And yet, that’s exactly what Android Central caught a glimpse of — that familiar-looking, multitab interface of the Firefox you know and love on the desktop.

Vladimir Vukićević, a developer working on the effort, posted the screen cap on his own blog and it clearly shows a very desktop looking affair, complete with the traditional menu bar of commands. Getting a home page to load was the first step, and it doesn’t sound like there major snafus so far:

“Mouse events sort of work, toplevel windows sort of work, keyboard doesn’t work yet but shouldn’t be hard to hook up. This is running in an emulator at the moment for ease of debugging, but it’s working just fine on physical hardware as well.

You’ll note that this is the full Firefox interface, and not the Fennec/Firefox Mobile UI; we’re testing with the full interface because it’s significantly more complex than the mobile UI and stresses Gecko much more. So, if the full UI works, then Fennec should work fine as well. Given the interest in Android on netbook and tablet devices, an updated version of the full Firefox UI might find a home on some of these. Android has been pretty great to work with so far; it’s a bit unusual platform for us due to its Java core, but with the NDK we’re able to bridge things together without many problems.”

Again, it’s way to early in the process to glean much about timeframes or browser capabilities, but it’s an exciting start — even if it is just a default home page. If you’re into following along on the progress, Vladimir and others on the team are posting the status of Android porting right here while Mozilla has an official Android wiki page too.

As I saw in my first look at Firefox Mobile for Maemo, the Mozilla team is definitely trying to bridge the gab between the web on a desktop and the web on a handheld — you can sync your passwords, bookmarks and history using Weave, for example. Even better is the ability to walk from the desktop and have the same opened tabs appear on your mobile. That’s the seamless nature where this is all headed.

But I’m not counting Google out just yet on their native browser. Many have overlooked similar synchronization features in the recent Nexus One firmware update. Multitouch support might have stolen the show, but search history and starred map items from the desktop carry over to Android now as well. Whichever “side” you pick in this browser war, I say we all win due to better choices that compete by adding usability and new features.

Related Research: “What Does the Future Hold for Browsers?

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