Sunday 22 July 2012

Firefox OS nightly builds now available for testing

We had reported earlier about Mozilla announcing its own operating system for smartphones, dubbed Firefox OS. You can now download the nightly builds from Mozilla’s website. While the build can't be downloaded on your phone, you can take the upcoming OS for a spin on a computer. Though, not as easy as installing an app, it’s still relatively doable.

The operating system was announced quite some time ago, with the codename Boot2Gecko. The project has since developed a lot, and the new smartphone with the Firefox OS is expected to be seen in 2013.

The builds on Mozilla’s website provide an x86 compatible Boot2Gecko runtime for testing the Gaia shell and applications that are built for the platform. It’s a very useful tool for Gaia contributors and developers who want to start building apps for the devices coming next year.

Interested users will have to do some configuration to get the software to run. The process involves obtaining the latest code of Gaia from GitHub and generating a profile to use in the environment. The steps to be followed are well documented on the Gaia Hacking page of the Mozilla Wiki.

The Boot2Gecko project unlocks many of the current limitations of web development on mobile, allowing HTML5 apps to access the underlying capabilities of the phone, which were previously available only to native apps. Telefónica’s Digital unit had partnered with Mozilla to showcase a new phone architecture where every phone feature such as calling, messaging, and games is an HTML5 application.

During the unveiling of the OS, Mozilla stated, “Mapping to key Firefox footprints around the globe,leading operators such as Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Smart, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telefónica and Telenor are backing the open Firefox OS as an exciting new entrant to the smartphone marketplace. They have also identified the potential of the technology to deliver compelling smartphone experiences at attainable prices."

Mozilla claims that the optimization of the platform for entry-level smartphones, and the removal of unnecessary middleware layers will enable mobile operators to offer richer experiences at a range of price points. These price pints would cover the lower end of the smartphone price range, which will help drive adoption across developing markets. Mozilla and all participants are committed to ensuring that the project is fully open, and the reference implementation of the required Web APIs is being submitted to W3C for standardization.

While this sounds very good, the main threat the company faces is that from big competitors. New platforms have been launched every now and then, but most haven’t seen much success, and a lot have just been shelved mid-way. CEO Matthew Key of Telefónica Digital in Europe has acknowledged, “We don’t underestimate the size of the task. There have been many new OSes launched and most of them have failed.”

Fingers are crossed till 2013 to see what Mozilla does with the Firefox OS.

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