Mozilla devs to test new smartphone OS this year

Mozilla recently posted images of the user interface for its Boot to Gecko mobile operating system and a development timeline

Mozilla developers hope to start testing smartphones running its new mobile operating system this quarter, with product demos slated for the first quarter next year and "productization" set for before June 2012, according to a road map on the project's website.

Mozilla announced the project, called B2G (Boot to Gecko), in July, describing it as an operating system for mobile devices that would run applications primarily on the Web.

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Developers hope B2G will help solve a problem that has long plagued the mobile industry: Developers must rewrite apps for each operating system. The goal of B2G is to create a framework that would let applications run from the Web on any operating system, provided the OS supports B2G's technology.

By the end of this year, the developers hope to have basic functions built and integrated including the accelerometer, camera, messaging, telephony and power management, according to the road map recently posted on the site.

Mozilla also hopes to have developed the user interface for the smartphone, which it calls Gaia. Mockups of the UI indicate that it looks relatively similar to the iPhone and Android interfaces.

During the first quarter of 2012 the developers hope to have more sophisticated apps and functions ready, such as an app store. They say it's a stretch but they might complete the Bluetooth, USB, and NFC functions by then. They are also working on an e-book reader, media player and Web browser.

Mozilla didn't respond to questions regarding additional details of progress and declined a request to interview the lead developer of the project. Three Mozilla developers are working on the project part time, according to the website, and others are also voluntarily contributing.

B2G is using pieces of Android, the operating system based on Linux and developed by Google.

Mozilla has worked on a number of mobile projects in the past that have gained little traction. As far back as 2004 it started building a mobile browser called Minimo, which at one point attracted investment from Nokia, but the project fizzled. It then began work on a browser called Fennec, which it released last year for Android and is now available for iPhone. It's not clear how many people use the browser, since most smartphone operating systems now come with their own browsers.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for the IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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