Mozilla enter the Tablet OS race

Mike Halsey MVP
Jul 26, 2011
Updated • Mar 7, 2015
  • Update: Mozilla developed Firefox OS in the meantime which is not based on Android or Chrome OS.

Mozilla have announced that they're the latest contender for the tablet operating system crown, and have begun work on their own operating system for mobile devices and tablets.  The OS will be based on Google's Android operating system but will have much of the code freshly written.

The project, which was announced on a Mozilla forum, aims to provide a direct competitor to Android on these devices now that Nokia and Intel's tablet OS, Meego is being discontinued.

In some ways the platform will be a hybrid of two Google operating systems, Android and Chrome OS, in that Mozilla want to harness their Gecko rendering engine from their Firefox browser and Thunderbird email package, to run applications that are web-centered but that run independently of the need of a browser.

The project is currently in its "infancy", but the core building blocks of the OS already exist.  Mozilla began publicising the existence of their new OS to try and get experts from within their user communities to help and contribute.  This will make it the first properly open-source mobile OS.

While Google's Android is powering ahead in popularity it has been plagued by security and malware issues.  Mozilla's Firefox browser has a tremendous reputation when it comes to security, and as such the goodwill carried with the Mozilla name will inevitably give any new product form the company a huge boost both from hardware vendors and the public at large.

The ultimate goal of the project is "breaking the stranglehold of proprietary technologies over the mobile device world" and making an open source operating system "the way we think open source should be done."

The tablet operating system market is already very crowded with products already available from Apple, Google, HP and RIM dominating the space and Microsoft releasing their Windows 8 OS next year.  Some people may say therefore that another OS may confuse matters and consumers even more or even dilute the market to the point where any new OS release becomes pointless.

Anybody who lived through the home computing revolution of the 1980's will be familiar with how successful multiple consumer operating systems can be when made available side by side.  Back then, companies such as Sinclair, Acorn, Commodore and Texas Instruments were among literally dozens of companies all releasing products with their own proprietary operating systems.

The difference between then and what we have now is the the communications technologies that bind devices together have become standardised.  Therefore anything that you could ever want to do on one tablet is possible on all the others.

This means that the operating system itself is becoming less of an issue as it essentially disappears, to an extent anyway, into the background and the focus is placed on the content that users want to access and the web pages they visit.  This was what Microsoft said they want to achieve with Windows Phone, and many people will argue they were successful in bringing the content to the front and centre of the user experience.

How successful Mozilla are in this space though depends on a variety of factors.  These include the amount of time it will take to develop the OS and what their competitors do in the mean time.  Mozilla have a very fast development process, with a new version of Firefox out every three months.  This is aided by a strong user community of programmers and developers.  What they don't have though is money and we can see from operating systems such as Google's Chrome OS that development of a mobile OS can be a complicated and time-consuming process.

We'll bring you all the latest updates on Mozilla's entry into the tablet space here at gHacks.


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  1. deepu said on July 27, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    i am waiting to see what will happen when an operating system is full of memory leaks

  2. willbillsill said on July 27, 2011 at 8:39 am

    The octopus shows in my brain when i read this report.Please pay more attention to firefox browser .Firefox is becomint worse and worse.I think orca browser will replace it .powerful ,faster and secure

  3. Umut said on July 27, 2011 at 12:34 am

    There is one thing we know for sure: It will be slow. If Mozilla does something it means it will be slow. :)

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