With mobile browser, Mozilla hopes to shake up market

Mozilla is in informal talks with mobile operators over the development of mobile Firefox, which it hopes will shake up the market as much the desktop browser.

Mozilla is in informal talks with mobile operators about its mobile Firefox project, which the organization hopes will shake up the market as much as the introduction of the desktop browser did in 2004.

"Mozilla's mission is to break open a closed market," said Mike Schroepfer, Mozilla's vice president of engineering, during a visit to London earlier this week. But "it won't happen overnight."

The impact, however, will be felt before year's end. By then, Mozilla is aiming to release a mobile browser for two operating systems: embedded Linux and Microsoft's Windows Mobile.

At this point, operators and carriers "want to know how much it will cost," Schroepfer said. That's an easy answer: mobile Firefox will be free, Schroepfer said.

But the introduction of a free mobile browser is potentially threatening to some operators. Some handset manufacturers and carriers rigidly control applications and services, maximizing their revenue by creating so-called "walled gardens" where only their own for-fee services can be accessed.

Those carriers will have to be wooed to allow their subscribers to download mobile Firefox. "I think that some carriers will basically fight this kicking and screaming, and some will embrace it and move ahead quickly," said Christian Sejersen, who is head of Mozilla's mobile engineering group in Copenhagen.

Sejersen recently traveled to Japan and Korea to speak with manufacturers and operators. In Japan, operators said their subscribers transmit three to four times more data when allowed to browse the open Web than they do when kept in a walled garden. That opens the door for more data transmission revenue, but also could make operators merely a commoditized "pipe" to the Internet.

Mozilla is also counting on operators to help contribute to the development of mobile Firefox in the same way the open-source community lends its labor for the desktop browser, Sejersen said.

Nokia has already done this. Versions of the N800 tablet and N810, which both run on Linux, have a browser that utilizes Mozilla's Gecko rendering engine, used to layout Web pages. Nokia has also contributed code back to the community, Sejersen said.

Sejersen would like to see a greater proportion of developers contributing code to the mobile side.

"Companies are more interested in getting a product release for themselves," Sejersen said. "We will probably see a higher contribution level."

Mozilla has also stepped up its efforts, turning mobile Firefox into a full-fledged project. Five full-time engineers are working at the mobile development center in Copenhagen, and Mozilla is hiring more, Sejersen said. Copenhagen was chosen since Europe has strong mobile expertise, he said.

Mozilla is also seeing positive signs from manufacturers. Korean powerhouse Samsung has submitted suggestions for the user interface. Also, Mozilla is working with chip designers ARM and Intel to make mobile Firefox run well on their chips, Schroepfer said. Mobile Firefox will be designed to work on ARM 11 processors, Sejersen said.

Mozilla has been criticized for getting a late start in the mobile browser field. Competitors include Opera Software, Apple, Nokia and Microsoft. But Sejersen said mobile browsers have quite a way to go to make browsing as easy as it is on the desktop.

Apple set a high bar with its Safari browser on the iPhone and the iPod Touch, with its zoom feature to magnify Web pages. But Sejersen said it would be better if the browser remembered where the user zoomed last time on a Web page to stop incessant fidgeting with the zoom feature.

Mozilla hasn't developed a workable solution to the problem just yet. But it shows that there's room for innovation.

"Somebody needs to come in from the side and give everybody a kick," Sejersen said. "I think the iPhone has done it ... but I still think there's more than can be done to make [browsing] easier."

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?