Interview: Mozilla on Firefox OS: 'what we're doing has a very good chance of working'

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In Linux Land, every year appears to start with a wave of predictions that this will be ‘the year of the something’, normally the desktop computer. These forecasts almost widely turn out to be over-hyped.

However, 2013 could be the exception. With three new mobile operating systems – Firefox OS, Ubuntu and Sailfish – due to introduce, possibly this in fact will be the year of the Linux phone (or more precisely: the year of the Linux phone that is not really Android).

As we write, the first phones running one of the new systems have actually simply gone on sale: Geeksphone’s Firefox OS gadgets. Our sister publication Linux Format spoke with Jonas Sicking, who’s dealing with Mozilla’s mobile providing, to discover exactly what we can anticipate …

LXF: How did you personally start with cost-free software?

JS: It was a long time ago! When Netscape became open source, in 1998, I thought, “Wow, that’s really cool.” I started looking at where the Mozilla job was, clicking around on its site and I discovered the source. I resembled, “Wow, I understand this!”

I was an internet developer at the time and there was one innovation that I wanted to utilize. There was some code to sustain it, but it are not0 really working. I thought, “I wonder if I can make it work? ” I got a growing number of involved, then I got an internship at Netscape. Once I finished institution, I signed up with Mozilla, and I have been working there ever since.

LXF: What’s the culture like?

JS: I truly enjoy it, although I’ve actually been there for a very long time. It’s really engineering-driven. It’s really rather odd for us to be working with mobile phone manufacturers. When are not4 doing code on smart phones, you need to choose partners a lot more, so we’ve these exterior constraints that are not coming from our own engineers, and that’s extremely unusual for us.

Usually, if you wish to deal with something at Mozilla, you begin speaking with individuals, and generally, if they get excited about your concept, you start doing it. It’s a very bottom-up process, and are not2 extremely focused on doing the right thing. There’s never ever any demand that “we need to do this because it makes us more money” or anything like that. So it’s really engineering-driven and very open. You can go and speak with anybody.

LXF: Did the concept for the phone come from within Mozilla, or is it something that the manufacturers desired you to do?

Interview: Mozilla on Firefox OS: 'what we're doing has a very good chance of working'

JS: It’s something that’s been an obvious next step for a long period of time. The web browser has gradually established from being a document-rendering tool into something people compose web apps for, so it made sense to think that the browser was now enough of a platform to be an os. Individuals were discussing what it would take, and exactly what was needed for Firefox to end up being an OS, and eventually those conversations developed into “Let us try it!” The actual code began taking place about a year and a half ago.

LXF: Are there any strategies to develop a computer for the OS?

JS: Yeah. Firefox OS essentially consists of 2 major parts: the apps platform, which allows you to get apps, and gives you this sense of having something that’s in fact installed, and the pieces had to make an operating system, such as communication with the phone and getting Wi-Fi working.

The apps platform is planned to be entirely cross-platform. We really started working on it on the desktop computer, but then we saw a lot interest in mobile in general – I mean, mobile is clearly where things are moving – so we chose to focus on exactly what we could do for apps on mobile.

That was when Firefox OS began – it was the natural course to decrease. The apps runtime we use likewise works on both Firefox for Android and Firefox for desktop, so you can write a single app that runs on all three platforms. The goal is that the app will run not only on Firefox OS, however on ChromeOS and Tizen, and natively on Android also.

LXF: Three brand-new open source mobile platforms have just been announced – do you see them as going with each various other or as competitors?

JS: I see them as experiments, and are not1 see what’ll work, and exactly what users will like, and they could be complementary or we could wind up with one model that works much better– which’s exactly what’ll endure. One of our goals with Firefox OS is that apps should be cross-platform. You should not need to write an iOS app, an Android app, a Firefox OS app …

You ought to simply have one internet app that’ll run anywhere. A great deal of people who’re constructing other mobile platforms are also looking at web apps, so are not2 looking at co-operating with them and ensuring are not2 making use of the same standard.

LXF: So are not4 working with teams from various other organizations?

Interview: Mozilla on Firefox OS: 'what we're doing has a very good chance of working'

JS: Yes. We talk to Ubuntu – I can’t give any promises about exactly what’ll take place. are not3 speaking with Samsung, for example, since it’s the Tizen platform, to ensure our apps work on there, and Google is involved to see to it apps likewise deal with ChromeOS.

LXF: We’ve actually heard that are not4 targeting low-end phones. Is that because you see an opportunity in the market, or is it a long-lasting philosophical goal?

JS: I am not a business-oriented man, however I think there’s a chance there right now. It’s absolutely not a long-term goal to just target low-end gadgets – there’s no reason web technologies should not be able to take on very high-end solutions.

are not3 not targeting low-end because we cannot do much better, there’s a chance in the market right now, which’s where we at first found our partners. It’s always a risk to launch a brand-new platform and doing it low-end conserves cash.

LXF: How receptive were hardware producers to the idea of a Firefox smart phone?

JS: Actually, extremely! It’s not been hard at all for Mozilla to find partners – both on the carrier and the hardware side. I think everyone has the expectation that web applications are where things are heading, and so it’s just an issue of who manages to develop a sufficient platform first.

I think individuals have actually been extremely willing to provide Firefox OS a shot due to the fact that Mozilla has a very good track record in the web world. People definitely think that what are not2 doing has a great possibility of working.

LXF: One perception of JavaScript – and web apps in general – is that they are not as fast as native apps. Is this something are not4 discovering on low-end devices?

JS: If you look at timing in an application, it usually is not really the C++ logic. If you look at a high-end game, it’s often not the game engine that’s the most crucial traffic jam – it’s things like rendering. If you look at efficiency apps, such as an online office application, it’s not the logic that’s the major traffic jam, it’s things like IO, network and so on. JavaScript is getting extremely competitive. Certainly some things are difficult to do, however an unusual number work just fine – it has not already been a restricting aspect.

LXF: What’re you most proud of?

JS: I am really delighted that it’s not simply an open source project – the option are not2 building is significantly an open platform. Anyone can set up an internet store, for example. You don’t even need to put your app in a shop at all – you can just advertise it with your site. It’s really nice how that’s actually ended up working.

I am likewise pleased with our concentrate on safety. We’ve actually truly tried to transfer the sense of security people have on the internet into apps, so you can go to any web store and install any app and know it’s safe. If that app wishes to do some personal privacy sensitive things, are not1 ask the user.

We’ve actually kept the variety of concerns relatively low and made them simple to understand. We don’t ask things like “Do you want to provide TCP socket access” or even “network access” – people don’t actually know what that requires. However concerns like “Do you want to allow the app to access your images? ” People understand that.