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Mozilla Plans Firefox for Mobile Web
Mozilla Plans Firefox for Mobile Web

By Jennifer LeClaire
October 11, 2007 8:42AM

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With plenty of room left for innovation in mobile browsers, Mozilla might become one of the key players in this area, especially if it can develop a mobile version of Firefox that addresses some of the interactivity support lacking in current mobile browsers, said Avi Greengart, a mobile analyst with Current Analysis.

Mozilla, the organization responsible for creating the popular Firefox Web browser, is bringing Firefox to mobile phones. The open-source developer is planning to launch its mobile browser in 2008.

Mozilla plans to add mobile devices to the first-class platform set for Mozilla2, which means Mozilla will make core platform decisions with mobile devices as first-class citizens.

"People ask us all the time about what Mozilla's going to do about the mobile Web, and I'm very excited to announce that we plan to rock it," Mike Schroepfer, a Mozilla developer who calls himself "schrep," wrote on the Mozillazine blog.

Firefox Going Mobile

Schroepfer hinted at a desktop and mobile browsing experience that could be bridged to build a better experience for both. He imagined a world in which bookmarks, history, and extensions from Firefox on the desktop work on a mobile device.

Mozilla plans to give device manufacturers the best of both worlds, Schroepfer said: shared investment in the open-source project plus the flexibility they need to customize the browser for their devices.

Why now? High-end devices are just getting enough memory and CPU horsepower to make for a compelling mobile Web browsing experience, Schroepfer said. ARM recently announced that by 2010 devices will be shipping with a processor that is eight times faster than what's in the iPhone.

"The user demand for a full browsing experience on mobile devices is clear. If you weren't sure about this before, you should be after the launch of the iPhone," Schroepfer said. Being able to leverage all the investments in the Mozilla platform across both desktops and devices is the right approach, he added.

Mobile Browser Competition

Clearly, the market for mobile browsers is getting more crowded. Nokia is making strides with its mobile browser, and Opera just launched the latest iterations of Opera Mobile and Opera Mini. Opera is making inroads with leading smartphone operators and handset manufacturers including Sony Ericsson, Motorola, HTC, KDDI, and Kyocera.

"Accessing the Internet on a mobile device is no longer a novelty for consumers in the major global economies. It's becoming a common, everyday occurrence for many people," Jon von Tetzchner, CEO of Opera Software, said in a statement. "Avid mobile Web users demand the best possible experience on their handsets."

Still, there is plenty of room for players that can innovate. Mozilla might be one of them, especially if it can develop a mobile Firefox browser that addresses some of the interactivity support lacking in current mobile browsers, said Avi Greengart, a mobile analyst with Current Analysis.

"Though Nokia does support Flash on the N800 Internet tablet, I've yet to see a handset that supports Flash or ActiveX in the browser," Greengart said. "So if you are on a site that says you have to use ActiveX to view live stock quotes, there isn't one. That's where I see the biggest room for improvement."

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