Mozilla working on new mobile browser

Mozilla said it plans to develop a browser for mobile phones.

After a couple of experiences dipping a toe into the mobile market, Mozilla said it plans to get serious about developing a mobile browser.

Mozilla has recently hired two new developers to help work on the project and plans to release Mobile Firefox some time in the next year or two.

The iPhone, Apple's popular new mobile phone, in part contributed to the renewed interest in mobile browsing at Mozilla. "The user demand for a full browsing experience on mobile devices is clear," Mike Schroepfer, vice president of engineering at Mozilla wrote in his blog this week. "If you weren't sure about this before, you should be after the launch of the iPhone."

As Mozilla continues to develop Mozilla2, the second version of the platform on which Firefox is built, it will add mobile devices as a category. That means developers of Mozilla2, which is expected to be complete in early 2009, will keep mobile phones in mind as they build the new platform, Schroepfer wrote.

He didn't get more specific on a release date for the mobile browser other than to say "not before 2008." Schroepfer also said Mozilla hadn't yet decided which mobile phones the browser would work on.

Depending on compatibility, Mozilla could face competition from companies such as Microsoft and Apple that include their own browsers in phones running their operating systems, as well as from third parties such as Opera Software ASA that have been fine-tuning their mobile browsers for years now.

The announcement comes after the release earlier this year of a new version of Minimo, a Mozilla-based mobile browser for Windows Mobile devices. A few months prior to the release, the lead developer of Minimo said he wouldn't be spending much time on the project in the future. This week, Schroepfer said that there are no plans to further develop Minimo.

Mozilla also offers Joey, a project in development that lets users clip and save text, photos, videos and other content while using a PC and then access that content through a browser on a mobile phone.

Mozilla is also involved with a group of companies including Arm and MontaVista Software that is developing an open-source Linux-based platform for devices that are bigger than a cell phone but smaller than a laptop. Mozilla is developing a browser for the platform and has already built one for a similar device, the N800, from Nokia.

The new Mozilla hires who will contribute to the mobile Firefox initiative are Christian Sejersen, who recently worked for Openwave Systems, and Brad Lassey, who worked for France Telecom R&D, which has been very active in mobile Linux initiatives.

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Nancy Gohring

IDG News Service

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