Mozilla's Boot to Gecko OS Is Moving Forward
In the summer of last year, we considered the question, "Could Mozilla Pull Off a Firefox OS?" While Mozilla hasn't traditionally been a player in the operating system space, it's worth remembering what Google has done with Chrome OS in a very short amount of time, and what it has done with Android. In the case of Chrome OS, Google specifically translated interface conventions found in its Chrome browser to a full-blown operating system.
Since last summer, Mozilla has been getting more and more serious about being an operating system player, and it is proceeding with Boot to Gecko, a purportedly "fully open" web-centric operating system.
In a wiki post, Mozilla's Andreas Gal writes:
"Mozilla believes that the web can displace proprietary, single-vendor stacks for application development. To make open web technologies a better basis for future applications on mobile and desktop alike, we need to keep pushing the envelope of the web to include --- and in places exceed --- the capabilities of the competing stacks in question...We want to...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."
Based on the Gecko rendering engine, Boot to Gecko will be squarely web-centric, and fully open. According to the Boot to Gecko wiki: "We will do this work in the open, we will release the source in real-time, we will take all successful additions to an appropriate standards group, and we will track changes that come out of that process. We aren't trying to have these native-grade apps just run on Firefox, we're trying to have them run on the web."
As InfoWorld has noted:
"If this sounds like Android or Chrome OS, it should. Boot to Gecko uses some of the same lower-level building blocks as Android, such as the Linux kernel and libusb. The team says this choice was made to reduce the burden on device makers that will be faced with certifying Boot to Gecko on new hardware. Although some building blocks are shared, Boot to Gecko is not based on Android and will not run Android applications."
No, Boot to Gecko is not Android, and with Google moving squarely into the handset business with its Motorola Mobility acquisition, there are questions about how open Android will remain. Will Google release the cutting-edge versions of Android to everyone before it releases its own products based on those versions? If not, Boot to Gecko may find a window of opportunity.
In every way, Mozilla is banging the drum of openness with this new OS. Later this year, we should get to see what Boot to Gecko is capable of, and whether application developers will welcome it.