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back to article Crazy Geckos: Nitot on Mozilla's post-Firefox mobile crusade

First came the BlackBerry, bringing the smartphones for suits perfected by RIM to consumers. Next came the iPhone, which quickly hoovered up 23 per cent of the market. But the iPhone came at a price: the freedom of users and coders. It is tightly controlled by Apple, as Adobe quickly found to its cost with Flash. Next up was …

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first rule of mobile: work with the telco big boys.

Don’t you just love those that tell you the free market is good for you and then do there damnedest to make sure you never find out.

Much as I admire this attempt when the big boys work out that to run an HTML5 app you will merely have to put in the URL and not pay them or allow them to restrict you this approach will fall on its arse.

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Not forever, I think

The reason telcos have power is simple: smartphones are expensive, costing as much as a laptop. So people buy them on contract and spread the cost rather than paying for them with cash and putting a SIM into them. And that gives the telco control of almost every smartphone on the network not made by Apple. Once smartphones get cheaper (and they will) people will get more control, I think. We're near the limit for performance gains now quad-core phones exist: realistically the only people who need more are serious gamers and people running bloatware (*cough* android). And HTML5 will help here: the lower an app's performance demands the cheaper the chip that runs it needs to be.

Back to the article: it's tempting and I'd love more competition to Android, but I think a major problem with android is the need to develop for so many screen sizes and resolutions. I think Mozilla might be best off creating a product that works on four screen sizes (basic/galaxy s ii, retina display/iPhone 4-size, One X size, Galaxy Note size) and no more. And setting several performance levels based on speed and ram. So developers can say "This app requires level 2 performance at least" and avoid needing to customize for every possible phone out there.

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Re: Not forever, I think

I quite like your approach with 'performance levels'. What I don't understand is why this has not caught on and we're stuck with synthetic benchmark of limited value.

Saying that, MS' similar windows rating hasn't caught on either but at least I can see why that is the case on desktops.

Anyone care to enlighten me?

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Re: Not forever, I think

@mending

"I think Mozilla might be best off creating a product that works on four screen sizes"

They won't need to dude - the UI will be styled with CSS and I'd guess XBL bindings with CSS Media Queries: https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/demos/devderby/2011/october/

Canvas and WebGL will allow the developer to abstract away the graphics layer & XPCOM will give you all the groovy XPConnect JavaScript to C++ functionality like sockets and SQLite storage stuff (I hope).

Yum - and no need for Java!

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lbc
Meh

Re: Not forever, I think

That's groovy tech alright, but it won't go against the basic truth that there's only so much information you can display per square inch of screen real estate. So a developer-defined "statement of minimal requirements" seems like a good idea to me, to prevent user disappointment.

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Anonymous Coward

Who are 'The Beatles'?

Ooh, look. The history of smartphones without so much as a passing reference to Symbian.

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Bull!

As long as the telco controls what will run on their network -- and it *is* their network -- they will insist on control over what runs on the device in your hand that *connects* to their network. And hey-presto, an open-source OS is forked.

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Anonymous Coward

Freedom?

Quote: "Mobility is a very different story because you have in your pocket a device that’s a computer and you have no control over it"

A great many things we use routinely are, in fact, computers, but I'm missing the part about *why* we should make them do anything other than the task they were designed for. Is it really so hard to see the difference between a general-purpose computer and an appliance? If I want to write software, install whatever I please, or just tinker with hardware/applications, I use a computer - that's what it was made for. And I've had years of training and experience for that purpose. I could do the same on my phone if I really wanted to, but frankly I'd prefer that it did the job it was made for with as little fuss as possible.

The vast majority of phone users have little programming ability, and certainly have *no* idea what risks they expose themselves to when they act as if they do. Most would quite naively install things that are about as safe as storing your debit/credit card on a shelf beside the local ATM with the PIN displayed prominently above it (because it saves you having to carry your card around or remembering your pin!).

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Re: Freedom?

I see no need to tamper with the software on my camera because it never connects to the internet. I see no need to tamper with the software on my washing machine because it stores no personal information. A smartphone, on the other hand, connects to the internet, is a target for thieves and carries e-mails, text messages, phone records and possibly credit card details in its memory. I don't think the best operating system is automatically an open-source one, but I think at least a certain level of interest in how good a phone is at keeping information about me private makes sense.

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And what about...?

Maemo? Excellent, and killed by Nokia. Meego? Equally excellent and ...killed by Nokia.

Good luck to the Mozilla boys and girls, but in the meantime I'm looking forward to the first bach of Tizen phones from Samsung. If they will fully support a properly open-source OS with a great range of handsets then android and all of google's "right up to the creepy line" nonsense will have some proper competiton, never mind the Jobs' mob walled-garden control-freakery.

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Re: And what about...?

And what makes you think Tizen won't go the way of Maemo and Meego? It will be the classic chicken and egg all over that kicked HP and RIMs butt. Nobody will write apps for a platform unless its popular and a platform won't get popular without apps. Tizen is even worse off because of Maemo and Meego fiascos. Why have to relearn, retool and develop for a platform which may or may not suddenly disappear overnight like its predecessors?

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"Lost its memory hog"??

Hardly. I am running the latest Firefox on a totally up to date Fedora 16 install and noticed it became slow earlier today. It had a resident size of 5.7 GIGABYTES!

That was enough to make me download Chrome and decide to give it a try. I'm not big on Google getting access to my browsing habits, but a functional browser may be the trade I have to make...

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Re: "Lost its memory hog"??

Mind some advice? Try QTWeb, works on Linux and Windows, light on resources, you can even put it on a flash and run it from there.

And what Moz seems to be ignoring is the USERS which is why their numbers are tanking. Its obvious that nobody likes the current UI and as you saw they still have memory issues so what is their answer? Why to go metro UI and make an appstore!...facepalm.

If you don't listen to your customers they go somewhere else, simple as that.

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lbc
Meh

Re: "Lost its memory hog"??

- It would be nice to have some figures on Chrome's footprint on your system for an equivalent usage pattern

- freedom has it's cost. I don't mind trading performance for control and infinite extensibility

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Boot2Gecko and The Infinite Indifference

Of course, there already is a web technologies-based platform with which to fight Apple's iron grip and Google's fragmentation. It's called the Wholesale Application Community (WAC): it's got a Javascript API, a W3C-compatible application packaging model, an infrastructure for operator-local app stores, the support of a string of carriers, model manufacturers and IT companies – and is going nowhere but down.

Did you know that Android is, on paper, the product of the Open Handset Alliance? That's a consortium of more than 80 companies – yet Google seems to be the only one actually working for its progress, while the others do little more than port the software to half-baked reference hardware and slap their logos on top of the things.

Technology is not the problem, lack of compromise is. Players in the mobile industry will gather to draw up (and sometimes even implement) standards all the time; getting any one of them to promote its use afterwards is another matter entirely. The whole mobile industry is terribly inertial: that's how they got driven off to the borders of their own market by Apple and Google to begin with. That's why WAP languished for years until being crushed under the rise of the mobile web, why WAC is stillborn, and why IMS will ultimately prove irrelevant.

The reason Boot2Gecko just might succeed is not technology, Telefonica's support or the increasing marginalization of carriers. The best thing it's got going for it is Mozilla's role as the driving force behind the platform. Just as with Android and Google, they've got the will to keep promoting it long after other involved parties have lost interest (which if experience is any guide, will happen within seconds of the 1.0 release).

If Mozilla can attract developer mindshare and drag the carriers and product manufacturers to provide consistent support, then Boot2Gecko may realize that vision of a web application platform which goes back all the way to WAP. But I'd not bet a penny on it, I've seen such promises made many times over and so far it's always ended in abject failure.

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One Word ... DOA

It always amazes me that companies still push the whole HTML5 for app development, when all attempts so far have led to utter failure (Web-Os, RIMs new OS, Chrome OS, and Apples second gen iPhone?)

What these guys fundamentally don't understand is that though there are a lot of html 5/JS "developers", most of those only do relative basic coding (no Unit/Integration testing, MVC etc ..) Anyone who has done serious programming, knows the value of such technology when you talking about relatively complex tools. Moreover the tooling for "native" coding (Java, Object C, .Net) is simple a lot more mature, and standardized. There is also, the issue of actually having a set of standardized APIs for stuff desktop devs take for granted (UI, I/O, Network etc ...).

A good take on allot this is is in a talk by Gilad Bracha, about Google's Dart. Now the focus is on Dart, but he gives a good overview as to why you really need structured programming/good tooling) if you want to do complex web apps that are maintainable by none code Ninjas.

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Anonymous Coward

This will be even shitter and less useful than Google's ChromeOS.

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Anonymous Coward

fragmentation...

"Meanwhile, Android has fragmented. Becoming big had a price, as it has been stretched and bent to fit devices with a fiendish variety of screens, chips, cameras and networking. This makes it very hard for developers to build one version of their app that runs everywhere."

I'll re-write that for you...

"Meanwhile, Android has consumer choice. Becoming big has a reason, as it has the flexibilty to fit devices with a refreshing variety of screens, chips, cameras and networking. This makes it a little bit harder for competent developers to build one version of their app that runs everywhere."

There.

Android is on phones that range from 3" to 5" for a reason... different people want different things. Ask El Reg readers what the perfect screen size is, and expect a multitude of answers. If a dev can't adapt and write code that takes different screen sizes into consideration, maybe they should stick to the walled garden.

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Re: fragmentation...

Well said, that coward. Any OS which can't scale from 3" to 10" (and beyond) is doomed to irrelevance.

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Re: fragmentation...

Ha, beautifully said. Though i'd go even further.

Developers seem to think they have an inherent right to earn huge amounts of money for relatively little work. It's like being a baker, and thinking that up-scaling to provide bread for neighbouring towns won't require any extra time or resources - its madness!

Just like a baker who wishes to expand her business, app development has overheads. And If you want to deliver your app (bread) to everyone smartphone ecosystem (town), you have to expect that there will be extra resources and work required.

In a true free market, peoples wishes drive innovation. And considering that everyone has differing opinions on what they do or don't want out of a mobile computer, you can expect a wealth of choice to naturally exist. However, the desire for developers to develop for only one software ecosystem and expect that they can reach everybody with a smartphone, is exactly opposite to the desire for a true free market.

However, this stark difference between the *customers* desire for choice, and the developers desire for a free lunch, are not completely at odds with each other.

Enter B2G and webapps! - *OUR* answer to both customer and developer desires. It has the potential to greatly standardise the development process across ALL mobile computers whilst retaining the wealth of choice customers want. For it to succeed, it only requires one thing... that enough developers understand its inherent benefits over closed and controlled ecosystems.

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Microsoft didn't quite say that....

Sorry to be so picky, but In a vain attempt to inject a few historic facts regarding one small aspect of your article...

You say "Microsoft declared grandly that no more could be done on browser development and that IE would in future be subsumed into Windows"

. In fact, what happened was that an IE program manager/test manager, speaking in May 2003 during an online chat session (Microsoft hosts a huge number of such sessions to communicate with various communities) made some rather opaque remarks that were picked up in the press. These were comments by a single employee during an on-line chat, not a formal announcement, grand or otherwise, by Microsoft.

The individual, Brian Countryman, was asked when the next version of IE would arrive (at the time, the current version was IE6 with SP1). Mr Countryman replied "As part of the OS, IE will continue to evolve, but there will be no future standalone installations. IE6 SP1 is the final standalone installation." A couple of questions later, he was asked if the withdrawal of 'standalone' versions of IE was due to antitrust. Mr Countryman replied "Although this is off topic, I will answer briefly: Legacy OSes have reached their zenith with the addition of IE 6 SP1. Further improvements to IE will require enhancements to the underlying OS."

From these two comments grew quite a big myth. AFAIK, No one, to this day, has been able to explain Brian Countryman's comments satisfactorily. Why did he appear to believe it was necessary to introduce improvements into the OS in order to improve the browser? Did he really mean to imply that Windows is a 'legacy OS'? What on earth does it mean to claim that 'legacy OSes' (in the plural) have 'reached their zenith with the addition of IE 6 SP1'? The comments don't appear to make any sense.

The important point here is that this was not a formal announcement by Microsoft. It was a couple of comments made by a program manager during a Q&A on-line chat session. They included an explicit assertion that "IE will continue to evolve", contrary to your claim that Microsoft said that "no more could be done on browser development". There was no claim that "IE would in future be subsumed into Windows". The comments also claim that it was 'legacy OSes' that had reached their zenith, rather than browsers.

The myth surrounding these comments has become very widespread over the years, and is a good example of how a couple of opaque, unguarded and, frankly, inexplicable comments by a single non-senior Microsoft employee without obvious sanction from the company can take on a life of their own at the hands of Microsoft's many detractors. Microsoft employs more than 90,000 people, and not every comment that every individual employee makes should be taken as 'gospel'.

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Re: Microsoft didn't quite say that....

He simply voiced what was Microsoft's marketing strategy at the time that the way to own the browser market was to make it so only your browser was available by default. The best way to enforce this so even governments couldn't change the fact was to embed the browser deep in the OS. Of course this will go down as one of Microsoft's five biggest mistakes (right up there with Bill Gates not wanting to support the internet) due to the enormous security cockups it caused the company for years afterwards (exposing the innards of your OS to the web is an obviously horrible idea to everyone but powerpoint marketing drones).

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Re: Microsoft didn't quite say that....

That is governments could require OEM's to offer other browsers but the plan was to make it so IE was always available as a necessary part of the OS. Of course this is beyond retarded when you realize this meant servers were forced to have a browser installed. Microsoft at least these days seems to finally have learned somewhat the term attack surface.

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Hmmmmm....

The concept is interesting, and there is proof that a web browser CAN do some pretty cool stuff. Like Quake 2 in browser, almost every popular smartphone game's HTML5 adaptation and of course things like CloudMe. And not to mention the plethora of awesome stuff on ChromeExperiments.com.

But, the way I see this being fun, is being able to change the WHOLE layout of a "home screen" with a CSS file. The only issue I can see is how on earth you'd stop a "rogue" website calling a random in some random country. Probably some kind of permission thing (No SHIT!)

P.S Were my eyes deceiving me, or did I read 5 or so spelling errors in that article.

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Cyanogen

Surely this is just doing the same things as Cyanogen, but without the support of handset people (under the covers) and the community

But with another non-compatible platform

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Re: Cyanogen

Nah Cyanogen is a whole new rom. This is more like adding some rooted apps and an unauthorized app store.

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