Mozilla, who we imagine isn’t too happy about losing market share to Google’s relatively new Chrome browser and the fact that Firefox Mobile isn’t taking off as well as they had hoped, has announced a new operating system dubbed “Boot to Gecko”, B2G for short. Now I know what you’re thinking, the market is already saturated thanks to iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Bada, and an untold number of feature phone operating systems, but Mozilla’s goal is quite honorable. They want to create an OS that, similar to HP/Palm webOS, will have applications built using web standards. B2G will have new APIs, which Mozilla hopes will someday become standards that anyone can use, that expose hardware functionality such as telephony, NFC, USB, Bluetooth, and more, to web apps. To accelerate development of B2G there will be “a slim layer of existing code from the lower levels of the Android operating system” according to Ars.Technica that will be used as a starting point from which Mozilla will then build a custom user interface and programming stack based on Gecko, the HTML rendering engine Mozilla uses instead of the widely deployed WebKit engine that’s seen in Android, iOS, Nokia’s S40, Symbian, and MeeGo platforms, webOS, Bada, and even RIM’s BlackBerry and QNX operating systems.
Unlike other players however, Mozilla aims to develop B2G in the open, so anyone can contribute. Google’s known for saying Android is “open”, and they’re right because much of Android is based on open sourced software, but rarely does the search engine firm take outside contributions into their OS, nor do they consulte the community as to the direction of the platform.
Should you care about this? It’s hard to say since right now since B2G is nothing more than a scribbling on a bar napkin, and the open source community has a horrible track record of producing commercial grade software, but competition is always a good thing. Watch this space.
Update: There’s a discussion thread that talks about B2G in greater detail and gives some clues as to the future of the project. Android was chosen as the foundation because players like Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, and NVIDIA have already written Android drivers for their hardware and will likely do so in the future as well. As for the hardware platform that’s currently being targeted, Mike Shaver, Vice President of Engineering for the Mozilla Corporation, says “we’re looking at Tegra 2 devices because they have hardware acceleration of open audio/video formats, and they match what we’ve got automated testing running on.”