Mozilla's Fennec heads to Symbian

Development work has begun on porting Fennec, Mozilla's mobile browser, to the Symbian platform

Mozilla has begun development work on porting Fennec, its mobile browser, to the Symbian platform.

Mozilla announced plans to enter the smartphone market in April and, in October, released the first alpha of Fennec, with compatibility limited to Nokia's Linux-based N810 internet tablets.

Mozilla has concentrated its initial development efforts for Fennec on Linux and Windows Mobile, but decided to expand to Symbian because of the platform's dominance in the smartphone market, said Christian Sejersen, Mozilla's director of mobile engineering.

"In order for Mozilla to be relevant in the smartphone space, we need to have a presence on the Symbian platform," Sejersen wrote in a blog post last week.

He said Symbian is supporting the Fennec port with engineering resources. "We have worked with Symbian to understand and scope the size of the project, and Symbian are supporting this with engineers to start working on this project so far," he wrote. Other third-party Symbian software makers have also shown interest in contributing, Sejersen said.

He cited recent Gartner figures showing that Nokia's Symbian devices accounted for nearly half (49.8 percent) of total smartphone sales in the third quarter of 2008, compared with 11.1 percent for Windows Mobile and 7.2 percent for Linux.

In the same quarter, smartphones from Apple, RIM and HTC (using Google's Android operating system) also took substantial market share, but Mozilla is not planning to port Fennec to Apple's iPhone, RIM's BlackBerry or Android-based devices, Sejersen said.

"There are a few other platforms — iPhone, RIM and Android — that have or are gaining market share, where we, for technical or licensing reasons, can't be deployed," he wrote.

He said initial code has been deployed in a Mozilla repository, and invited developers to contribute to the project.

Initial plans are for full browsing functionality to be built into the code by the end of April 2009, ahead of an initial test version later in the year, Sejersen said.

Fennec will compete against existing mobile browsers, including Apple's Safari Mobile, Google's Chrome Lite, Opera Mobile and Skyfire.