19 Comments

Summary:

A secretive new project aims to bring Chromecast-like media streaming to a Firefox-OS powered TV dongle. Check out an exclusive first look at a prototype of the device.

mozilla stick featured

Google’s Chromecast streaming stick could soon get competition from an unexpected source: Mozilla has secretly been working with a partner on a Chromecast-like streaming stick that is powered by Firefox OS. The project was supposed to be under wraps for at least a few more weeks, but Thursday, news started to leak out when a Mozilla evangelist tweeted a photo of a prototype of the device.

I’ve been tracking this project for some time. I’ve talked to sources directly involved, and actually was able to get my hands on one of the prototype devices that are currently being shared with a very small circle of developers. There are still lots of unanswered questions about this project; the device doesn’t have a name yet, it’s not exactly clear when it will go on sale, for how much, or in which markets, and I don’t know the name of the company that will eventually make or sell the hardware.

What I do know is that it is an ambitious project that aims to combine Mozilla’s commitment to openness with a Chromecast-like media streaming device. And here’s the biggest surprise: The prototype I had access to not only works like Chromecast, it actually is capable of running some Chromecast apps. Check it out:

Mozilla has been working for some time on adding casting and multiscreen capabilities to Firefox. Firefox developers have experimented with casting content to Roku streaming boxes, and recent developer notes hinted at the possibility that Firefox may also one day support Chromecast as well as an ominous “Netcast” device.

It now looks like this Netcast device is this Firefox OS-powered streaming stick, even though Netcast is likely just another code name. The plan is apparently to add casting to Firefox as well as offer developers a casting device that is more open and hackable than Google’s Chromecast.

Google opened up its Google Cast SDK earlier this year, and Google executives have said that they want to bring casting capabilities to countless of apps. However, there are some restrictions Google Cast developers are bound to. Certain types of content aren’t allowed, and the Google Cast SDK is thus far limited to Android and iOS apps as well as web apps.

Mozilla’s device won’t come with these kinds of restrictions, which could enable developers to add cast capabilities to Windows Phone or Fire phone apps. Moreover, developers could also add casting to desktop apps, and may even be able to build their own cast-enabled hardware with little interference from Mozilla. It’s also possible that the hardware could be used to run other software, as it will apparently come with an open boot loader.

Speaking of which: While Google closely controlled the development and manufacturing of its Chromecast adapter, it seems like Mozilla is far less involved in the actual manufacturing of this product, which mirrors the hands-off approach it has had when partnering with manufacturers for Firefox OS phones. That sentiment was echoed by  a Mozilla spokesperson, who sent me the following statement in response to an inquiry about the device:

“Firefox OS is an open platform freely available for any company to build on top of without restriction. This means companies can experiment with different form factors that run Firefox OS.”

And with that, it’s unclear when exactly we are going to see this as an actual product. But judging on the leak and the sources I have talked to, we may not have to wait that much longer.

This post was updated at 1:18pm with a statement from Mozilla.

  1. This sounds like Chromecast-but-better. It can do all of Chromecast’s tricks, but people can build even cooler things with it.
    Build a desktop program or webapp that acts like media center? Sure.
    What about a remote that controls apps? (if play, pause, etc, are all standardized)

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  2. I don’t think Google has anything to be concerned about. Look at how many apps already work on the Chromecast http://bit.ly/ChromecastAppsForAndroid with more being added weekly. Firefox is going have a hard road ahead.

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  3. Can it support Chromecast protocol V2? It is impossible task, so this device is useless. Before someone mention CheapCast, leapcast and others: they are dead and do not work with the v2 protocol.

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  4. eduardo hanzo Friday, June 20, 2014

    Oh god not another one.

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  5. Oh, jeeze. So this means that Mozilla is wasting even more resources on not fixing Firefox, currently their only viable offering, and the only one actually seeing any use whatsoever.

    It’s pointless for them to expend any resources at all on a useless doodad like this. Nobody will want this, just like nobody wants Firefox OS.

    Please, Mozilla, please fix the memory leaks in Firefox! Please, Mozilla, please fix the excessive CPU usage of Firefox! Please, Mozilla, please restore the old Firefox UI that used to actually be usable! And please, Mozilla, please stop dabbling in this half-assed, idiotic, me-too copying of everything that Google does.

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    1. I ditched Firefox years ago after it kept freezing and I had no idea why
      I’ve been around long enough to know when to throw software under the bus and move on.

      My first computer has Netscape 1.0 Eudora lite re 1995 running win 3.1

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    2. akismet-47f5b9fa5ef57dc9932326c548654e57 Saturday, June 21, 2014

      You know that Firefox has the least amount of memory leaks out of any browser right? Memory leaks stopped being an issue years ago.

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  6. Awesome!

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  7. And we need this because?? Already have chromecast, Roku and all that comes with it
    My next piece of hardware will be a Chromebook, with a touchscreen, running chrome OS so I can use chrome extensions. I miss them on my tablet.

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    1. Exactly, you don’t need it. That’s why it’s going to fail, just like every other stupid idea that Mozilla has engaged in lately.

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  8. “The plan is apparently to add casting to Firefox as well as offer developers a casting device that is more open and hackable than Google’s Chromecast.”

    Based on the “openness” of some of the other devices created by Mozilla’s Partners, I question whether “open and hackable” will actually come to fruition. While Mozilla may wish this to be an open device, it is really up to the OEM to keep the device open.

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  9. A Ch0w, sneeze Saturday, June 21, 2014

    Actually happy to hear this. I want to try out some windows phone devices, but because of the chromecast, I can’t ditch Android.

    I wish them luck and I’ll certainly buy one if it also costs $35.

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    1. The newer Windows Phone 8.1 devices all support Miracast rather flawlessly. It is a much better solution IMHO.

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  10. I would love this! The problem with roku and chromecast is that they’re super closed. especially chromecast. they don’t let you stream anythiing local worth a damn. i prefer to actually own content and serve that myself. especially since the other cloudy things fall flat on their ass when the internet is bad, ISP is having trouble for the content, or the ISP is traffic shaping (which they do. thanks USA.). or if e.g. netflix/hulu are having server issues..or content issues.

    i guess for most people hulu/netflix is sufficient. but i own both and their options fucking suck.

    (and yeah sure, the roku can watch local storage, but only certain formats, the hardware isn’t exceptional..it’s closed source so it’ll never ever improve, i’ll have to buy roku 4,5…etc. for new codecs to ever get supported)..

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