Open Source Hacking: Mozilla Showcases New Firefox Mobile OS

By Silicon Allee |

By Andrew Griffiths

Mozilla showcased its new mobile phone operating system with a hackathon at Berlin’s Supermarkt venue earlier this month. The event marked the culmination of a series of similar events held around Europe during the last two months aimed at sparking developer interest in the new OS.

In the keynote, Mozilla’s Christian Heillmann made it clear that the open source software company would not be aiming to compete with the latest iPhones or Android models. Instead it aims to capture the lower end of the market, particularly in developing countries. Indeed, the flagship Firefox phone, being developed in partnership with a number of manufacturers, is scheduled to be first launched in Brazil by Telefonica’s Vivo brand.

Heillman also said that Mozilla is opening up the entire app ecosystem by providing a mobile platform where apps can be written using pure web technologies – HTML5, CSS and Javascript. Firefox phone users will be given the freedom to install these apps from any website, not just the dedicated Firefox app store. Mozilla, which is set to move into Berlin’s new tech hub called the Factory, hopes that by lowering the barrier of entry to developing apps and installing them, both developers and users will be enticed to the platform.

The OS can theoretically be installed on most smartphones – and there are deals in place with telco giants such as Telefonica and Deutsche Telekom to offer handsets with it preinstalled.

And the charm offensive continued in the following talks which took a technical deep-dive into APIs that Mozilla will be making available to app developers. The list was impressive and developers now have access to phone features such as camera and web telephony that up to now have been the sole reserve of native apps.

The hackathon kicked off afterwards with developers finally able to get their hands on the new devices. At this stage the operating system is still in alpha development and Mozilla will need to iron out a few bugs before the major release.

But by the end of the day more than 28 new apps had been created for the platform. The developers of the best ten were awarded Firefox mobile phones which Mozilla hope will be used to create what it dubs “the next generation of web apps.”

Andrew Griffiths is a Javascript developer based in Berlin.