Firefox OS

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Firefox OS
Firefox OS Vertical SVG Logo.svg
Firefox OS 1.5 home screen.png
Firefox OS 1.5 development build
Company / developer Mozilla
Written in HTML5, CSS, JavaScript,[1] C++
OS family Firefox OS/Open Web (based on Linux kernel)
Working state Current
Source model Free software and open-source[2]
Initial release April 23, 2013 (2013-04-23)
Latest release 1.3.0[3]
Latest preview 1.4 and 1.3T[4] / Updated daily
Platforms ARM, x86
Kernel type Monolithic (Linux)
Default user interface Graphical
License MPL[2]
Official website mozilla.org/firefox/os

Firefox OS[5] (project name: Boot to Gecko, also known as B2G)[6] is a Linux kernel-based open-source operating system for smartphones and tablet computers[7] and is set to be used on smart TVs.[8] It is being developed by Mozilla, the non-profit organization best known for the Firefox web browser.

Firefox OS is designed to provide a complete[9] community-based alternative system for mobile devices, using open standards and approaches such as HTML5 applications, JavaScript, a robust privilege model, open web APIs to communicate directly with cellphone hardware,[6] and application marketplace. As such, it competes with commercially developed operating systems such as Apple's iOS, Google's Android, Microsoft's Windows Phone[9] and Jolla's Sailfish OS as well as other community-based open source systems such as Ubuntu Touch.

Firefox OS was publicly demonstrated in February 2012, on Android-compatible smartphones,[10][11] and again in 2013 running on Raspberry Pi.[12] In January 2013, at CES 2013, ZTE confirmed they would be shipping a smartphone with Firefox OS,[13] and on July 2, 2013, Telefónica launched the first commercial Firefox OS based phone, ZTE Open, in Spain[14][15] which was quickly followed by GeeksPhone's Peak+.[16]

Project inception and roll-out[edit]

Commencement of project[edit]

On July 25, 2011, Andreas Gal, Director of Research at Mozilla Corporation, announced the "Boot to Gecko" Project (B2G) on the mozilla.dev.platform mailing list.[9] The project proposal was to "pursue the goal of building a complete, standalone operating system for the open web" in order to "find the gaps that keep web developers from being able to build apps that are – in every way – the equals of native apps built for the iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone 7."[9] The announcement identified these work areas: new web APIs to expose device and OS capabilities such as telephone and camera, a privilege model to safely expose these to web pages, applications to prove these capabilities, and low-level code to boot on an Android-compatible device.

This led to much blog coverage.[17][18] According to Ars Technica, "Mozilla says that B2G is motivated by a desire to demonstrate that the standards-based open Web has the potential to be a competitive alternative to the existing single-vendor application development stacks offered by the dominant mobile operating systems."[19]

In 2012, Andreas Gal expanded on Mozilla's aims. He characterized the current set of mobile OS systems as "walled gardens"[20] and presented Firefox OS as more accessible: "We use completely open standards and there’s no proprietary software or technology involved."[20] Gal also said that because the software stack is entirely HTML5, there are already a large number of established developers.[20] This assumption is employed in Mozilla's WebAPI.[21] These are intended W3C standards that attempt to bridge the capability gap that currently exists between native frameworks and web applications.[22] The goal of these efforts is to enable developers to build applications using WebAPI which would then run in any standards compliant browser without the need to rewrite their application for each platform.

Jan Jongboom at the Simonyi Conference - 2014

Development history[edit]

In July 2012, Boot to Gecko was rebranded as 'Firefox OS',[23] after Mozilla's well-known desktop browser, Firefox, and screenshots began appearing in August 2012.[24]

In September 2012, analysts Strategy Analysts forecast that Firefox OS would account for 1% of the global smartphone market in 2013 – its first year of commercial availability.[25]

In February 2013, Mozilla announced plans for global commercial roll-out of Firefox OS.[26] Mozilla announced at a press conference before the start of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that the first wave of Firefox OS devices will be available to consumers in Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Mexico, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Spain and Venezuela. Mozilla has also announced that LG Electronics, ZTE, Huawei and TCL Corporation have committed to making Firefox OS devices.[27]

In December 2013, new features were added with the 1.2 release, including conference calling, silent SMS authentication for mobile billing, improved push notifications, and three state setting for Do Not Track.[28]

Async Pan and Zoom (APZ),[29] included in version 1.3, should improve user interface responsiveness.

"The major work will be on the optimization of Firefox OS running on a 128MB platform" in version 1.3T.[4]

Demonstrations[edit]

Mozilla's Firefox OS, version Boot2Geck-prerelease on Nexus 4 (LG E960) (Code name: mako)

At Mobile World Congress 2012, Mozilla and Telefónica announced that the Spanish telecommunications provider intended to deliver "open Web devices" in 2012 based on HTML5 and these APIs.[30] Mozilla also announced support for the project from Adobe and Qualcomm, and that Deutsche Telekom’s Innovation Labs will join the project.[31] Mozilla demonstrated a "sneak preview" of the software and apps running on Samsung Galaxy S II phones (replacing their usual Android operating system).[10][32] In August 2012, a Nokia employee demonstrated the OS running on a Raspberry Pi.[33]

Firefox OS is compatible with a number of devices, including Otoro, PandaBoard, Emulator (ARM and x86), Desktop, Nexus S, Nexus S 4G, Samsung Galaxy S II, Galaxy Nexus[34] and Nexus 4.

In December 2012, Mozilla rolled out another update and released Firefox OS Simulator 1.0, which can be downloaded as an add-on for Firefox. The latest version of Firefox OS Simulator, version 4.0, was released on July 3, 2013[35] and announced on July 11, 2013.[36]

Mozilla's US$25 Firefox smartphone displayed at MWC, is built by Spreadtrum.[37] Mozilla has collaborated with four handset makers and five wireless carriers to provide five Firefox-powered smartphones in Europe and Latin America so far. In India, Mozilla is launching the $25 in partnership with Intex & Spice, announced the company.[38]

Core technologies[edit]

Firefox OS architecture diagram

The initial development work involves four major software layers:[39]

GONK[edit]

Gonk consists of a Linux kernel and user-space hardware abstraction layer (HAL). The kernel and several user-space libraries are common open-source projects: Linux, libusb, BlueZ, etc. Some other parts of the HAL are shared with the Android project: GPS, camera, among others. Gonk is basically an extremely simple Linux distribution and is therefore from Gecko's perspective, simply a porting target of Gecko; there is a port of Gecko to Gonk, just like there is a port of Gecko to OS X, and a port of Gecko to Android. However, since the development team have full control over Gonk, the developers can fully expose all the features and interfaces required for comprehensive mobile platforms such as Gecko, but which aren't currently possible to access on other mobile OSes. For example, using Gonk, Gecko can obtain direct access to the full telephony stack and display framebuffer, but doesn't have this access on any other OS.[39]

Gecko[edit]

Main article: Gecko

Gecko is the web browser engine of Firefox OS. Gecko implements open standards for HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Gecko includes a networking stack, graphics stack, layout engine, virtual machine (for JavaScript), and porting layers.[39]

XULRunner[edit]

Main article: XULRunner

XULRunner is the run-time system for anything written in XUL, especially any Firefox add-ons.

Gaia[edit]

Gaia is the user interface of Firefox OS and controls everything drawn to screen. Gaia includes by default implementations of a lock screen, home screen, telephone dialer and contacts application, text-messaging application, camera application and a gallery support, plus the classic phone apps: mail, calendar, calculator and marketplace. Gaia is written entirely in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. It interfaces with the operating system through Open Web APIs, which are implemented by Gecko. Because it uses only standard web APIs, it can work on other OSes and other web-browsers.[39]

Release history[edit]

Version[40] Feature Complete (FC) date[41] Code Complete (CC) date[42] Release date[43] Codename Gecko version[40] Included security fixes[40]
1.0 December 22, 2012 February 21, 2013 TEF Gecko 18 Gecko 18
1.0.1 January 15, 2013 September 6, 2013 Shira Gecko 18 Gecko 20
1.1.0 March 29, 2013 October 9, 2013[44] Leo Gecko 18+ (new APIs) Gecko 23
1.1.1 HD Same as 1.1.0 with WVGA Gecko 23
1.2.0 September 15, 2013 December 9, 2013 Koi Gecko 26[45] Gecko 26
1.3.0 January 31, 2014 March 17, 2014 Gecko 28 Gecko 28
1.4.0 April 29, 2014 TBD Gecko 30 Gecko 30
2.0.0 July 21, 2014 September 1, 2014 Gecko 32 Gecko 32
2.1.0 October 13, 2014 November 21, 2014 Gecko 34 Gecko 34

Criticisms[edit]

Chris Ziegler of the technology blog The Verge wrote that it will take app distribution to pre-iPhone era, requiring application developers to deal with multiple carriers and their app stores.[46][47] But at the Mobile World Congress, Gary Kovacs, the CEO of Mozilla, said that the devices matter less than what they're able to run; apps make or break a mobile platform these days, not hardware, and the advantage is that users don't have to install an app to use it. Mozilla is making the most of this with the search functionality built into Firefox OS, a core feature of the platform.[48]

Janne Lindqvist, a mobile security researcher at the Rutgers University WINLAB, expressed concerns related to the discovery mechanism of a web-based platform, but a Mozilla spokesperson has stated that they are "requiring developers to package downloadable apps in a zip file that has been cryptographically signed by the store from which it originated, assuring that it has been reviewed." In addition, "apps coming back from search are given only limited access to device programming interfaces and applications, unless the user grants permission for further access."[49]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ B2G/Architecture - Mozilla Wiki.
  2. ^ a b Mozilla Licensing Policies
  3. ^ http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/os/notes/1.3/
  4. ^ a b https://wiki.mozilla.org/FirefoxOS/Tarako
  5. ^ "The first mobile in Spain with firefox OS. Geekphone Keon y Peak". January 22, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "Firefox OS". Mozilla. August 21, 2012. Retrieved 17 September 2012. 
  7. ^ Dotzler, Asa (January 6, 2014). "Mozilla Launches Contribution Program to Help Deliver Firefox OS to Tablets". Retrieved March 19, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Mozilla and Partners to Bring Firefox OS to New Platforms and Devices". Mozilla Corporation. January 6, 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c d Gal, Andreas (June 25, 2011). "Booting to the web". mozilla.dev.platform mailing list. http://groups.google.com/group/mozilla.dev.platform/browse_thread/thread/7668a9d46a43e482?pli=1. Retrieved 2011-11-20.
  10. ^ a b Ginny Maies (February 28, 2012). "First Look at Mozilla's Web Platform for Phones: 'Boot to Gecko'". PCWorld. Retrieved 2012-03-23. 
  11. ^ "Mozilla making mobile OS using Android". blog. I Didn't Know That!. July 2011. Retrieved August 4, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Raspberry Pi". The Register. January 22, 2013. Retrieved January 22, 2013. 
  13. ^ "CES 2013: ZTE Firefox OS Smartphone Coming In 2013 | TechWeekEurope UK". Techweekeurope.co.uk. January 10, 2013. Retrieved 2013-02-26. 
  14. ^ Aditya Dey. "Telefonica launches First Ever Firefox OS-based Phone in Spain". TechStake. Retrieved July 2013. 
  15. ^ "First Firefox OS Smartphone Has Arrived: Telefonica Prices ZTE Open At $90 In Spain, Latin American Markets Coming Soon | TechCrunch". July 1, 2013. Retrieved July 15, 2013. 
  16. ^ "Say 'hola' to the future – Geeksphone". Shop.geeksphone.com. Retrieved 2013-09-02. 
  17. ^ "The Firefox Phone? Mozilla Working on Android-Esque OS". blog. Gagagadget. July 26, 2011. Retrieved August 4, 2011. 
  18. ^ Andrew Kameka (July 26, 2011). "Mozilla borrows from Android to create its own mobile operating system". blog. androinica. Retrieved August 4, 2011. 
  19. ^ Ryan Paul (July 26, 2011). "Mozilla eyes mobile OS landscape with new Boot to Gecko project". Ars Technica. Retrieved August 4, 2011. 
  20. ^ a b c "Mozilla’s Boot 2 Gecko and why it could change the world - Features". Know Your Mobile. March 2, 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-18. 
  21. ^ WebAPI
  22. ^ "WebAPI - MozillaWiki". Wiki.mozilla.org. Retrieved 2013-06-14. 
  23. ^ Brown, Mark (August 8, 2012). "Mozilla's HTML5 phone platform now called Firefox OS, launching 2013 (Wired UK)". Wired.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-08-18. 
  24. ^ "Mozilla shows off Firefox OS screenshots". The Inquirer. Retrieved 2012-08-18. 
  25. ^ "Firefox OS to Capture 1 Percent Share of Global Smartphone Market in 2013". Strategy Analytics. Retrieved 2012-09-27. 
  26. ^ "Mozilla Announces Global Expansion for Firefox OS". mozilla. February 24, 2013. Retrieved 2013-03-27. 
  27. ^ "Mozilla reveals Firefox smartphone launch partners". BBC. February 24, 2013. Retrieved 2013-03-28. 
  28. ^ http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/os/notes/1.2/
  29. ^ https://wiki.mozilla.org/Platform/GFX/APZ
  30. ^ "Telefónica and Mozilla pioneer first Open Web Devices" (Press release). Telefónica. February 27, 2012. Retrieved 2012-03-23. 
  31. ^ "Mozilla in Mobile – the Web is the Platform" (Press release). Mozilla. February 27, 2012. Retrieved 2012-03-23. 
  32. ^ Chloe Albanesius (February 28, 2012). "Mozilla Tackles Walled Gardens, Demos 'Boot to Gecko' Mobile OS". PCMag.com. Retrieved 2012-03-23. 
  33. ^ "Raspberry Pi now comes in Firefox OS flavour". Theregister.com. Retrieved 2012-09-15. 
  34. ^ "B2G Build Prerequisites". Mozilla Developer Network. Retrieved September 9, 2012. 
  35. ^ "Firefox OS Simulator :: Versions :: Add-ons for Firefox". Retrieved July 15, 2013. 
  36. ^ Angelina Fabbro (July 11, 2013). "Firefox OS Simulator 4.0 released ✩ Mozilla Hacks – the Web developer blog". Retrieved July 15, 2013. 
  37. ^ Spreadtrum planning a $25 Firefox OS smartphone
  38. ^ "Mozilla to launch $25 phone in India in partnership with Intex & Spice". IndianWeb2.com. Retrieved June 18, 2014. 
  39. ^ a b c d "B2G/Architecture wiki page". Mozilla wiki. Mozilla. June 5, 2012. Retrieved 2012-06-05. 
  40. ^ a b c "Release Management/B2G Landing - MozillaWiki". MozillaWiki. Retrieved March 24, 2013. 
  41. ^ https://wiki.mozilla.org/B2G/Roadmap#Feature_Complete_Dates
  42. ^ https://wiki.mozilla.org/Release_Management/B2G_Landing#Versions_and_Scheduling
  43. ^ "Index of /pub/mozilla.org/b2g/manifests/". Mozilla FTP server. Retrieved September 10, 2013. 
  44. ^ "Firefox OS Update (1.1) Adds New Features, Performance Improvements and Additional Language Support | Future Releases". Mozilla. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
  45. ^ https://wiki.mozilla.org/Platform/2013-10-01#Notices.2FSchedule_.28akeybl.2Flsblakk.2Fbajaj.29
  46. ^ Chris Ziegler (February 27, 2013). "With Firefox OS, Mozilla gets a little dirty to clean the mobile web". The Verge. Retrieved 2013-06-14. 
  47. ^ Chris Ziegler (February 28, 2013). "Certified 'Powered by Firefox OS' devices require Firefox Marketplace, minimum hardware specs". The Verge. Retrieved 2013-06-14. 
  48. ^ Mozilla Explains Why Firefox OS Apps Are Fundamentally Better than Native Mobile Apps softpedia.com
  49. ^ Talbot, David (February 28, 2013). "Security Researchers Raise Questions on How Mozilla’s Web-Centric Firefox Mobile OS Will Stop Malicious Web Apps | MIT Technology Review". Technologyreview.com. Retrieved 2013-06-14. 

External links[edit]