Mozilla's Boot to Gecko: A Windows Phone OS competitor or something else?

Mozilla's Boot to Gecko: A Windows Phone OS competitor or something else?

Summary: Mozilla is working on a new mobile-centric OS via its Boot to Gecko project. How will this end up competing with Microsoft?


A team that's part of the Mozilla Project (the folks who brought us Firefox) is building a new mobile-centric operating system via a project they're calling "Boot to Gecko" (B2G). The new OS is designed to take on Google's Android, Apple iOS and Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system, according to the team behind it.

The B2G team is using the core Android kernel plus some Android drivers as a starting point, and then building an OS that will "boot to the Web," they have said.

Will this keep the Boot to Gecko team out of the IP hot water that other Android vendors are facing? Unlikely, said IP activist and blogger Florian Mueller.

"Android currently faces the worst intellectual property issues any software ever had in the history of this industry. Using any Android building blocks seems risky, but Mozilla is also unlikely to safely walk.through the patent minefield with any code of its own. It probably won't be able to give assurances to device makers either way," Mueller told me, via e-mail today.

IP concerns aside, where, exactly, will this B2G operating system fit? Is this Mozilla's attempt to build something like Google's Chrome OS (a Linux kernel with the Chrome browser welded on top that is optimized for Web browsing)? Is it an extension of the Mozilla Webian Shell -- a stripped-down browser that allows Web-app access only and runs on top of existing operating systems like Linux, Windows and Lion? It's hard to tell from the early B2G information on the Mozilla.Dev.Platform thread.

I'm also wondering whether B2G will be more of a Windows competitor than a Windows Phone OS one, given that Microsoft is believed to be moving toward making full-fledged Windows its smartphone platform (though not likely until 2013 with Windows Phone 9, at best). Windows, not Windows Phone OS, also is Microsoft's current and future tablet OS.

Or maybe Microsoft will be making use of its Menlo and/or Service OS technologies from Microsoft Research by the time B2G is available.

As a quick refresher, Menlo is/was a mobile operating system project which supposedly was a stepping stone toward putting full-fledged Windows on phones. The idea behind Menlo was to replace the Embedded Compact kernel inside the Windows Phone operating system with a Windows NT-based one. Microsoft researchers shared information about a Menlo v. 1 device a year ago.

ServiceOS (formerly known as Gazelle, which was formerly known as MashupOS) is a "multi-principal OS-based browser."  Via ServiceOS, a “master copy of a user’s applications resides in the cloud and cached on her end devices,” according to a Microsoft Research abstract explaining the project. “The ServiceOS project aims to address many challenges faced by our Windows Phone platform, post Windows 8 platform, the browser platform, and Office platform,” the abstract added.

From what the B2G team has shared so far, where do you see the coming new Mozilla operating system competing with Microsoft and its myriad mobile operating system platforms?

Topics: Browser, Android, Google, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • I think your article ...

    <i> "Mueller told me, via e-mail today."</i><br><br>... would've been better serviced if you hadn't quoted this clown.<br><br>PS. You can quote an <strong>"IP activist"</strong> but not the "Linux Advocate"? <br>What's the difference?
  • RE: Mozilla's Boot to Gecko: A Windows Phone OS competitor or something else?

    I wouldn't single it out to just WP OS competitor but a competitor to all mobile OSs. We know it won't stand a chance against WP7 but if Mozilla can whip up something to scare the crap out of android then that would be good.
    • RE: Mozilla's Boot to Gecko: A Windows Phone OS competitor or something els

      I agree. I don't think Mozilla is aiming for a share of the 2% WP7 has. Mozilla probably considers it an Android competitor.
      • I doubt Mozilla is as short sighted as you


        2% share that WP7 Currently has. With Mango, and the long term benefits down the road that WP7 will have as it begins to fit in with the rest of Microsoft's eco-system, you nay-sayers will be choking on your own words.
      • Competitors

        Yes, Mozilla is positioning B2G as a competitor to all mobile phone OSes. Here's their statement from their wiki page:

        "We want to take a bigger step now, and find the gaps that keep web developers from being able to build apps that are --- in every way --- the equals of native apps built for the iPhone, Android, and WP7."

        I am singling out WP and MS here because this blog is All About Microsoft. Thanks. MJ
        Mary Jo Foley
      • RE: Mozilla's Boot to Gecko: A Windows Phone OS competitor or something els

        "2% share that WP7 Currently has"
        Thanks for pointing it out. For anyone who wasn't sure, spaulagain is in fact correct. I am indeed referring to WP7's current share (ie not past or future). As for me being short sighted, I guess if you belong to the cult of MS than believing anything except that eventually MS will completely dominate the market is short sighted. I, however, take a more realistic approach. The fact is MS has failed in mobile for a decade, it has thus far failed with WP7 and Mango is at best evolutionary so to expect MS to magically raise it's share to 50% (like Android) is unlikely to happen anytime soon. I suppose by giving no options to Nokia customers but WP7 may increase their share a bit. Although, as much as people love Nokia hardware, I suspect it won't be enough for them to choose WP7 over android and iOS.
      • RE: Mozilla's Boot to Gecko: A Windows Phone OS competitor or something else?

        @anono - don't be so sure. Asian handset manufacturers are lining up ten deep to dump android as soon as there's a truly open source alternative. Paying $15 per handset for Google's IP cock-ups is definitely a killer. Meanwhile four new WP7 vendors (including Nokia) will release WP7 phones next quarter. Android RIP.
        Major Plonquer
    • RE: Mozilla's Boot to Gecko: A Windows Phone OS competitor or something els

      "We know it won't stand a chance against WP7"
      It's not even complete and you know it won't stand a chance. Go back to your cult.
      • RE: Mozilla's Boot to Gecko: A Windows Phone OS competitor or something else?

        It?s called a Reality Distortion Field (RDF). Windows Zealots have been living in one for the last few decades.
      • Message has been deleted.

        William Pharaoh
      • There is no cult, get out of your cave


        Lol, your attempt to label anyone who believes in WP7 as part of a "cult" outlines how naive your judgement is. I belong to no MS cult. For the past decade I've been severely disappointed in everything MS has done (except maybe Xbox).

        However, I have used Android, iOS, and WP7. WP7 has offered the most fluid and simple UI out of the three. Which is pretty impressive considering how Apple usually has the upper hand with respect to UX.

        MS is unifying their eco-system over the next few years, between Windows 8, Xbox, Office, WP7, cloud services, Bing, etc. If you got out of your cave you'd recognize the big moves MS is doing to better their consumer edge.

        I have several friends who have sworn by Android and always give me crap about my WP7. After several big issues with their Android phones, they are now second guessing their stance.

        I think Mozilla is wasting their time with this. I have been mostly displeased with their recent Firefox versions (4 and 5) and have switched over to Chrome or IE9. Like others have said, I think it will be a waste of development time. They should fix their browser first.
      • RE: Mozilla's Boot to Gecko: A Windows Phone OS competitor or something els

        @spaulagain<br>The only reason, I am frequently referring MS fans as being in a cult is because that's what a lot of them do to Apple fans (or really anyone that uses Apple). So consider this to be a bit of a social experiment. I am interested to see how people react. I am aware that Firefox has turned crap and they are not funded well enough to really compete. The only reason they succeed against IE6 was because MS completely stopped developing. I however don't agree that Google funds them. Google has a business relation with them. Mozilla could easily go to bing or yahoo with the same offer. They may not match Google, but I would assume they would come close.
  • RE: Mozilla's Boot to Gecko: A Windows Phone OS competitor or something else?

    If this is in fact an attempt to bring a "Chrome OS" style to a phone, data caps are right out the window....would something like this support only VOIP calls??
  • RE: Mozilla's Boot to Gecko: A Windows Phone OS competitor or something else?

    I would have serious concerns about the data caps, and overages with this phone. That being said, it might pass Windows Phone 7 Series OS phones in about a year.
    • LOL!


      Why would anyone want it? they have Android and WP7 to choose from?

      William Pharaoh
      • RE: Mozilla's Boot to Gecko: A Windows Phone OS competitor or something else?

        @William Pharaoh
        Let?s see, for those that do not have the mental capacity to understand. WP7SOS phones are stagnating in warehouses, and Just about everything else is being bought (and used) by end users. Microsoft?s Kin version two is not exactly a hot seller, and has already been relinquished to the margin bin.
      • Yeah

        Rick_K has seen them in the warehouses, he knows. :|
        Michael Alan Goff
  • RE: Mozilla's Boot to Gecko: A Windows Phone OS competitor or something else?

    Interesting but it is a waste of development effort.
  • What a world!

    Anybody thinks they can make an operating system. WebOS, QNX, Symbian, Moblin, Bada, and some college kid wrote an OS called Linux. Let them do it, if they have time to waste.
  • Good to see more competition

    It's good to see more competition, which is what at least the EU telecoms operators are pushing for in the mobile OS market. However, as long as Mozilla rely on Google to fund their operations, I can't see how anything they produce can remain competitive with Google's own offerings (e.g. ChromeOS and Android) in the long run. Google can always give better funding to their own projects, since they effectively set the budgets for both.

    If Mozilla offer something that isn't tied to the Google advertising machine, it could really be interesting. For that to work, however, they'd need a real business plan, and might have to give up their tax-exempt status. Open source business models have a poor track record, and the loss of tax-exempt status would make it even harder for Mozilla to fund their operations.

    For Google, Mozilla's purpose was obviously to continue FF development and thereby weaken IE's dominant position, until Chrome was ready to take over from FF. With Chrome continuing to gain market share, Mozilla is starting to looking redundant. If Google decide Chrome is strong enough to replace FF, they may turn off the funding, leaving the Mozilla Foundation in a very precarious position.

    The other problem, of course, is that anything produced by Mozilla and based on Android is likely to be another IP nightmare. After being led by Google into the Android mire, and then abandoned, I can't imagine many hardware firms will be eager to jump into another one.