3 Comments

Summary:

Firefox Mobile for Maemo arrived last month, but without many devices to take advantage of it, people are wondering which platform will be the next one to see Mozilla’s browser. Microsoft’s clean break with Windows Phone 7 just might push Mozilla to Android first.

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Last month saw the release of Firefox Mobile for Maemo, but without many devices to take advantage of it, people are wondering which platform will be the next one to see Mozilla’s browser. Windows Mobile has long had an alpha build of Firefox Mobile, but it hasn’t seen much updating in the past year or so. And with Microsoft making a clean break with Windows Mobile 7, that puts the Mozilla folks in a bit of pickle. Do they continue work on the existing alpha for Windows Mobile 6.x and lower or does the development team bide their time and start with Windows Phone 7?

While waiting for an answer to that question, the obvious alternative is looking like Firefox Mobile for Android. And even though we’ve seen some early porting progress on the Android front, it could be a while before a finished product arrives. It’s likely to happen this year, according to Jay Sullivan, Mozilla’s VP of mobiles. During Mobile World Congress, he explained to TechRadar that Android is a “modern OS, and it’s a great fit with us. It’s the type of platform that has a high affinity with the early adopter, and it’s seen a lot of uptake.” Part of the holdup for Firefox Mobile on Android is the different code base — Android is built on Java while Firefox Mobile is developed in the C and C++ languages, says Sullivan. Now that the Open Handset Alliance supports native C and C++ code in the NDK, Mozilla can move forward on the Android front.

Coding platforms aside, at the end of the day I wonder how many Android handset owners will consider moving to Mozilla for browsing when the time comes. I don’t see Google stopping the availability of a competing browser, but I do expect to see the Android browser mature by the time Mozilla delivers. The main advantages of a Mobile Firefox version is in the extensions, plug-ins and desktop synchronization. Google has already made good progress on the last front with its Chrome browser and Bookmark Sync — news today hit that even more data will be synchronized in the future. Might Google be able to offer some, if not all, of those other features on the native Android browser before the year is out? I know we have a large contingent of Firefox fans — jkOnTheRun readers use Firefox more than any other browser — so is this development something you’re eagerly awaiting or is it just another browsing option you’ll check out on an Android handset?

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  1. To develop any software for Windows Mobile at this stage wouldn’t be a wise allocation of resources.

    Nobody knows if Microsoft’s next ‘Windows Phone Seven Series’ platform will gain any traction. Having Zune-like features is no guarantee (The Zune itself failed, and could not compete against iPod). There’s a lot of uncertainty.

    I can see why Mozilla has put all its resources towards Android first.

  2. I would hold off on doing any work for W7 Phone Series (aka ZuneOS) since MS is all over the map with that beast.

    Do you really wanna play with tiles and hubs and stuff. Better to see if Redmond gains any traction with their new phones first as this is probably Microsoft’s last chance to get above single digit marketshare in the mobile phone space.

    Don’t forget while MS pours billion$ into phone development the House of Google (Android) and House of Apple (iPhone) are getting ready for significant updates to their phone ordinance. It could get very ugly for Microsoft very very quickly. droid out.

  3. I can see why the Mozilla team abandoned the Windows Mobile port. It was obvious, even a year ago, that Windows Mobile was at end-of-life status.

    But porting to Microsoft’s next mobile OS, WP7S, is also a difficult decision for Mozilla. This far out, it is impossible to say whether or not WP7S will be a success or failure.

    Maybe Mozilla will wait it out a bit, to gauge whether WP7S receives the necessary support it would require to make it viable.

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