Tizen and Boot to Gecko are on the same side: Mozilla

NEW ORLEANS—Mozilla's new Boot to Gecko mobile OS and Samsung's Tizen may look like competitors as dueling open-source, Web-based mobile OSes. But they're actually on the same team, said Todd Simpson, Mozilla's chief of innovation.
May 15, 2012

As Samsung's Tizen OS is looking to grab a foothold, Mozilla has announced its own mobile OS named Boot to Gecko (BtG). While Tizen is the descendant of the Linux Foundation's LiMo, Intel's MeeGo and Nokia's Maemo, BtG is purely a Mozilla project. Announcement of BtG gave rise to the talks that it will provide a tough competition to Tizen as an open-source, Web-based mobile OS. But that's not the case. According to Todd Simpson, Mozilla's chief of innovation, they're actually on the same team. In fact, Mozilla plans BtG to make an alternative to Google’s Android.

"If Tizen and Boot to Gecko converge on device APIs and Tizen does amazingly well, the Web is going to do amazingly well. We don't look at that all competitively," he said.

Mozilla isn’t in this game for dollars, claims Simpson. The whole idea is to create a non-profit common open-set of web standards of mobile OSes. And if Tizen does that, Mozilla will have full back of it.

"The way you get things standardized on the Web, if you're familiar with the W3C you can actually move the process pretty quickly. Since we've been doing that for 10 or 12 years, we think we can help ourselves and Tizen through this and get these APIs standardized pretty quickly," Simpson said.

Samsung recently handed out the first Tizen developer devices at a conference in San Francisco. As Samsung is fully focused in Tizen, Mozilla expects other original equipment manufacturers (OEM) to take on BtG route.

"Samsung is highly invested in Tizen, other OEMs are not necessarily. Hopefully we will end up with multiple competitive web-centric OSes. That's the way competition becomes healthy," Simpson said.




A Web-Centric Phone

Boot to Gecko replaces all the user-facing parts of a mobile OS with a browser. Though BtG runs on the same Linux kernel as Android, all of its apps are HTML5 rendered through Firefox's Gecko engine. This includes the core apps like the dialer and other third-party apps. The OS is designed to run fine on devices with 600-MHz processors and 256MB of RAM. The first BtG based phone will be a Telefonica phone to be launched in Brazil next year, says Simpson.

Designed primarily for first-time smartphone users, the BtG main menu will be a grid of nine built-in smartphone apps. As said, all the apps will be written in HTML, JavaScript, with WebGL for games. The OS will also come with an app store, where users can install apps of their choice from. But again, BtG will be able to run any other HTML5 app designed to open Web standards.

All in all, Boot to Gecko seems a well planned alternative to Android. It remains to be seen if this dream of Mozilla can sustain in the real world.

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