All posts tagged ‘B2G’

File Under: Browsers, HTML5, Mobile

Mozilla Tempts Mobile Developers With Firefox OS Simulator

Firefox OS’s home screen, dialer and web browser. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey

Mozilla has released a new version of its experimental Firefox OS Simulator. The Firefox OS Simulator (which also goes by the nerdtastic nickname r2d2b2g) is a new add-on for Firefox that makes it easy for web developers who would like to get their hands dirty building apps for Mozilla’s coming mobile Firefox OS.

Mozilla’s Firefox OS is still in the very early alpha stages, but if you’d like to test your apps in the latest version of the Simulator, head on over to the download page (note that there are known issues running the simulator on Linux and Windows XP).

Firefox OS is Mozilla’s answer to the question how does Firefox stay relevant in an increasingly mobile world? Locked out of Apple’s iOS due to the platform’s developer limitations and only recently beginning to create a truly competitive browser on Android, Mozilla’s long term mobile plan is to create its own mobile operating system built entirely on open web technologies.

Although the company has since switched to the “Firefox OS” moniker, the original name, Boot2Gecko, neatly captures Mozilla’s take on the mobile operating system — essentially turning the Firefox web browser into an operating system.

Applications built for Firefox OS use nothing more than web development tools — everything is made with HTML, CSS and JavaScript — which then run atop Firefox’s Gecko rendering engine.

To make it possible to create full-featured mobile apps with only HTML and other web tools, Mozilla is relying heavily on device-level APIs to tap into everything from dialing phone numbers to listing contacts, taking photos and getting Wi-Fi information. Not all of the APIs Firefox OS uses are web standards yet, though Mozilla has submitted most of them to the W3C for consideration.

Mozilla hardly has a monopoly on using web tools to build mobile apps; that was Apple’s original plan for iOS and it’s also exactly what tools like Phonegap or Cordova allow you to do for iOS, Android and other mobile platforms. The difference with Firefox OS is that you don’t need to package your app up in a native container — there’s no need for Phonegap and its ilk.

While Firefox OS may use familiar web development technologies and may run on the same Gecko engine that already powers the Firefox web browser, developers still need a way to test their apps in a mobile environment, which is where the Firefox OS Simulator comes in.

To get started with the Simulator, first open up the “Simulator Manager” by selecting the new Firefox OS Simulator option in the Firefox Web Developer menu. In the Simulator Manager you’ll find controls to start and stop the Simulator and a JS Console option to see any error messages as you develop.

For more on how to get started using the Simulator and building apps for Firefox OS, see the Mozilla Hacks blog, especially the very thorough tutorial from Mozilla community member Luca Greco, who walks through nearly the entire process of building and testing an app on Firefox OS.

File Under: Mobile, Web Standards

Video: Mozilla Developer Shows Off the Power of WebAPI

It wasn’t too long ago that Mozilla launched its WebAPI project, a cross-platform, web-based API for accessing features on mobile devices. If WebAPI succeeds it could provide an open, web-based alternative to the proprietary app systems on today’s mobile devices.

The goal of the WebAPI effort is to help web apps access the same features that platform-specific mobile apps enjoy. That way web apps could better compete with platform-native applications. Mozilla’s various WebAPIs aim to make it easier to build web apps that access your phone’s camera, GPS info, network status and accelerometer.

Now Mozilla’s Paul Rouget has put up a demo video of some of Mozilla’s WebAPIs in action. Rouget shows a number of demos, including what looks like it could be a very cool web-based camera app — a bit like Instagram, but available to anyone with a modern web browser.

If Mozilla’s WebAPI project sounds a bit familiar it may be that you’ve heard of the W3C’s Device APIs Working Group, which is attempting to define standards that cover much of the same device-to-web ground. In fact, some of Mozilla’s WebAPI project may eventually be rolled into the W3C’s efforts.

But, as Rouget mentions in the demo video, much of Mozilla’s effort is aimed at building the company’s Boot to Gecko mobile platform. The Boot to Gecko Project is Mozilla’s attempt to develop a mobile operating system that emphasizes standards-based web technologies. With that end goal in mind, Mozilla’s WebAPI may end up being somewhat different than what the W3C is trying to build.

For more details on Mozilla’s WebAPI efforts, check out the WebAPIs wiki which offers a complete list of the APIs and more details about Mozilla’s plans to standardize them.

File Under: Browsers, Mobile

Telefónica Working With Mozilla to Build Open Web-Centric Smartphone

Mozilla announced today that it has partnered with mobile network operator Telefónica to deliver a complete mobile operating system built around standards-based web technologies. They plan to bring the platform to market later this year on a prototype device that they are developing in collaboration with Qualcomm.

The new operating system, which is called the Open Web Devices (OWD) platform, is based on Mozilla’s Boot2Gecko project. Mozilla launched B2G last year with the aim of building a Linux-based mobile computing environment with an application stack that runs entirely in Gecko, the HTML rendering engine that is used in the Firefox web browser.

Photo illustration by Aurich Lawson/Ars Technica

According to a statement from Mozilla, Telefónica was already evaluating the feasibility of creating its own web-centric mobile platform when the B2G project was first announced. Telefónica subsequently decided to bring its ideas to B2G and join Mozilla in a cooperative development effort.

Their initial target is to produce devices with smartphone-like capabilities that can be built inexpensively and sold at the price of a common feature phone. Telefónica believes that the unique advantages of a platform built around web technologies will potentially reduce development and production costs, enabling the company to make devices that are a good fit for regions where smartphones have historically been too expensive for widespread adoption.

“From our experience in Latin America we know that a huge part of the market is not being catered for by current smartphones,” said Telefónica Digital product development director Carlos Domingo in a statement. “With new open web devices we will be able to offer a smartphone experience at the right price point for these customers.”

As we recently reported in our hands-on look at B2G, Mozilla is introducing a number of new JavaScript APIs that expose device functionality to web content. These include APIs for measuring device battery level and communicating with a device’s cellular radio.

Mozilla has been working with the W3C to turn its new APIs into open standards with the hope that the technology will be embraced by other browser vendors. In today’s announcement, Mozilla revealed that it plans to take this effort one step further by turning the whole OWD platform into an open standard.

“Because of this initiative’s commitment to openness, this reference implementation will be submitted for standardization to W3C,” Mozilla told us in an e-mail. “The objective is that there are no proprietary APIs within the device architecture, making phones developed using it the only truly open devices on the market.”

The initial OWD prototype device will be built around a Qualcomm chipset, but the exact specifications have not yet been disclosed. In light of the focus on low cost, it’s likely that the specs will be modest. Mozilla contends that OWD is lighter than some other mobile platforms because its simple HTML-on-Linux architecture eliminates the need for a lot of the intermediate layers that would otherwise be necessary.

According to Mozilla, this lack of overhead will allow OWD to run efficiently on less-expensive hardware than its rivals. But HTML rendering engines are hardly lightweight — it is still unclear whether a user experience built entirely with HTML and JavaScript will be able to fully match the performance and responsiveness of native code on a mobile device.

It does seems clear, however, that the extensive use of HTML will help accelerate OWD development and vastly simplify the sort of customizations that mobile network operators typically make. Mozilla was able to get its B2G home screen interface up and running very quickly due to the strengths of HTML as an environment for creating interactive user experiences.

Another question that is left unanswered is which handset manufacturer will actually build the launch device for Telefónica. A number of rumors that have circulated over the past few days suggest that LG will be involved in building the first handset based on the B2G project. It’s possible that LG is involved, but that hasn’t been confirmed yet.

This article originally appeared on Ars Technica, Wired’s sister site for in-depth technology news.