Does a Mozilla smartphone/tablet OS have a chance against Android and iOS?

Summary:If Mozilla has teamed up with a hardware partner (or partners) then it's serious about B2G, and if it's serious about B2G, then it's also serious about going head-to-head against Apple and Google.

If rumors are to be believes, not only will Mozilla take the wraps off the Mozilla Marketplace at next week's Mobile World Congress, but it will also announce that it has teamed up with LG to bring a developer-oriented mobile device to market.

Does Mozilla stand a chance against the likes of Android, Chrome, Windows Phone (and Windows 8) and iOS when it comes to smartphone and tablet operating systems?

Mozilla Marketplace is the company's plan to bring apps to Firefox, which will make a debut with Firefox 13 in June. However, Mozilla has also hinted as aspirations to enter the OS market with it's Boot to Gecko (B2G) project, a OS that runs HTML5, JavaScript and CSS directly on device hardware without the need for an intermediate OS layer.

According to ExtremeTech, Mozilla has partnered with LG and is to announce a developer device that could go on sale as early as next week, and that this device will give developers the chance to start developing apps for B2G.

However, at present there's really no sign of B2G code, so it's likely that any devices sold now would sit on desks gathering dust until later in the year. This fact alone makes me suspect that there won't be a device on sale next week, and that at best this is an announcement.

But either way it's interesting. If Mozilla has teamed up with a hardware partner (or partners) then it's serious about B2G, and if it's serious about B2G, then it's also serious about going head-to-head against Apple and Google.

And that could be a huge problem for Mozilla. Apple and Google are titans of the tech industry, and by comparison Mozilla is, well, nothing. Even Microsoft is having a tough time breaking into the post-PC device market, and that company has billions at its disposal and enormous reach into almost every corner of the consumer and enterprise IT markets. If Microsoft is having a hard time going up against Apple and Google, what's Mozilla's secret sauce?

Mozilla might have been able to outmaneuver Microsoft when it came to offering an alternative web browser, but this is an entirely different thing. Giving away a free browser is very different to trying to sell hardware of a platform. Not only that, but Google and Apple are far more on the ball than Microsoft was when it comes to protecting their markets and threat recognition.

I see this playing out in one of three ways:

  • Fantasy-case scenario: Mozilla becomes a big player in post-PC hardware with B2G and offers hardware OEMs and carriers an alternative to Google, Apple and Microsoft's walled-garden approach (yeah, right ... ).
  • Best-case scenario: B2G hardware dies on the vine before Mozilla invests too much money and development time in the project.
  • Worst-case scenario: Google, Apple and Microsoft tag-team Mozilla in the courts, dragging the company into the ongoing litigation mess that the mobile hardware market has evolved into, and Mozilla ends up hemorrhaging cash.

I see what Mozilla is trying to do here. It's basically trying to turn every copy of Firefox, no matter where it is, into an operating system capable of running apps. That's a noble idea (although you might wonder just how fragmented the app market is going to get soon, with everyone wanting a piece of it), but B2G takes it a step further to the point where Mozilla wants to become the platform of its own. And it's that plan that puts Mozilla on a collision course with the Goliaths of the tech industry.

I'm thinking that Mozilla has bitten off more than it can chew here.

Topics: Operating Systems, Apple, Browser, Mobile OS, Software Development

About

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is an internationally published technology author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology -- whether that be by learning to program, building a PC from a pile of parts, or helping them get the most from their new MP3 player or digital camera.Adrian has authored/co-authored technic... Full Bio

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