Mozilla: Firefox 4 for Android to ship in a few weeks

One more beta will be released before the final code is out, says a Mozilla vice president

The Mozilla Foundation expects to release the final code for the Firefox 4 browser for Android mobile devices in a few weeks, with one more beta version to be released in the next week or so.

The latest version of the mobile browser has a sync feature that allows users to replicate information contained in the desktop version of the browser on their Android device, including bookmarks, saved passwords, open tabs and browsing history, said Jay Sullivan, vice president of products for Mozilla, during an interview at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Tuesday.

Sullivan said about 150 add-ons will be available for the mobile browser. Add-ons are small applications that work inside the browser to bring extra functionality and were key to Firefox's initial appeal. Other browser makers now allow for add-ons.

The mobile version of Firefox will also be available for Nokia N900 devices running the Maemo operating system. However, it will not be available for the iPhone due to Apple's insistence that mobile browsers use its version of the Webkit rendering engine and that iPhone apps not contain third-party language interpreters, Sullivan said.

Firefox Mobile is also incompatible with the Symbian, Windows Mobile and Blackberry mobile operating systems due to other technical restrictions. But Mozilla developers are looking for ways to bring users a Firefox experience "without asking permission from anyone," Sullivan said. That could include storing information such as Web histories on Firefox's Web site, he said.

Mozilla also has a project under way called Open Web Apps, which envisions a store or marketplace for Web applications using technologies such as HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript and can run in a Web browser. Sullivan said Web applications would be described using metadata that would show up during regular Web searches, and users could provide rating and comments.

"People want to build with HTML5, but they want the ratings, reviews, discovery and monetization that the native apps do today," Sullivan said. "There's no reason you should have to use native development technology to get monetization. They should be unrelated but they have been tied together. So we need to bring those things to the Web."

Looking ahead, Mozilla plans to pursue a strategy of "instant personalization," where the experience on Firefox is the same regardless of what device a person is using, Sullivan said. Sync, which is a feature in Firefox 4, is still relatively "primitive," Sullivan said.

"You want to grab any device and have it log you onto a site quickly, if you want to buy something have it know your credit card details yet be secure," Sullivan said.

More broadly, Mozilla is going to accelerate its development schedule, Sullivan said. Its developers had aimed to release a major version of Firefox once a year.

"We're going to move to a more Web-like model where we are shipping more often," Sullivan said. "Firefox 5 will be a much quicker release cycle but it will have fewer features, but it will be more agile and more reactive to the issues that are facing the market."

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Jeremy Kirk

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