Boot To Gecko, Something To Get Excited About?

28 Feb/12

When I first heard about Mozilla’s new project, Boot To Gecko (B2G), an open source operating system for smartphones, I initially thought that Mozilla should better spend the resources on the Firefox web browser.

Now that I have read more about it and viewed a demonstration on YouTube, I have to admit that my stance has changed. While I cannot say that Boot 2 Gecko will be successful or widely adopted, I do see the potential that it has.

When you look at the smartphone landscape currently, you see a few dominating operating systems, namely Android, iOS and maybe even Symbian (even though Symbian will drop like a stone in the future and Windows Phone may take its place). Phones running those operating systems are heavily subsidized in many countries. Instead of paying hundreds of Dollars for the phone, you pay less in cash because of this. This does not mean that the phone itself is cheap, as you pay a monthly subscription fee and usually have to stay with the mobile company for an extended period of time.

In many third world countries, phones are not subsidized which moves the price up. The majority cannot shell out hundreds of Dollars, or whatever the local currency is, for a phone. That’s why so called feature phones are highly popular in those countries. A feature pone by definition is a phone that is not a smartphone. These feature phones often come with limited Java or BREW support which limits what can be done with the phone.

B2G now could become an alternative in those countries, as it offers smartphone capabilities at a cheaper price. According to Carlos Domingo, Telefonica product development and innovation director, a phone with B2G would be “ten times cheaper than an iPhone”. The main reasons for it being cheaper are that phone’s running it need less processing power than phone’s running many other mobile operating systems, and that the operating system itself is free as well.

The interesting aspect is that the technology relies entirely on HTML5, CSS and JavaScript. The mobile OS is actually doing as well as the Firefox web browser in the HTML5 test.

B2G would offer mobile users all the power of HTML5, extended with device capabilities like Bluetooth and SMS, a richer capability model for interaction with the filesystem, and a way to tie these “native HTML5 apps” together. The intent is very much that B2G lead to improved capabilities for the Web platform, not that it replace HTML5 or related tech in any way. Many of these new capabilities will also make sense in desktop browsers, and we look forward to seeing them there as well.

Mozilla showcased a first prototype at the Mobile World Congress that highlighted the capabilities of the phone.

Boot to Gecko Video

What’s your take on Boot To Gecko? Are you looking forward to it, or would you say that it won’t get the traction needed to become a success?

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