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Firefox OS

Review paper by Prince

Abstract
Firefox OS is a Linux kernel-based open-source operating
system for smartphones and tablet computers and is set to
be used on smart TVs. Core technologies used for making
Firefox OS are: Gonk, Gecko, XULRunner and Gaia. The
structural similarities between Firefox OS and android
allow the Mozilla platform to run on a number of devices
that ship with Android. Firefox OS is compatible with a
number of devices, including otoro, Pandaboard,
Emulator(ARM and x86), Desktop, Nexus S, Nexus S 4G,
Samsung Galaxy SII, Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4. Firefox OS
is not a proprietary platform. It's based on HTML5 and that
means that it’s an open platform. Developers can create
mobile apps without big compatibility issues thanks to
HTML5 potentially catalyzes mobile app development on
Firefox OS from developers who have previously been
focused on PCs.
Keywords: Demonstrations, Core technologies, Benefits
and features.
1)

Introduction

Firefox OS is developed by Mozilla, the non-profit
organization best known for the Firefox web browser.
Firefox OS is designed to provide complete communitybased alternative systems 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, and
application marketplace. Firefox OS was publicly
demonstrated in Feb 2012, on android-compatible
smartphones. Mozilla has also partnered with T2Mobile to
make a Firefox OS reference phone dubbed “Flame” which
is designed for developers to contribute to Firefox OS and
to test apps.
Andreas Gal expanded on Mozilla’s aims. He characterized
the current set of mobile OS systems as “Walled gardens”
and presented Firefox OS as more accessible: “We use
completely open standards and there’s no proprietary
software or technology involver”.

2)

Demonstrations:

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. Mozilla also announced support for
the project from Adobe and Qualcomm, and that Deutsche
Telekom’s Innovation Labs will join the project. Mozilla
demonstrated a "sneak preview" of the software and apps
running on Samsung Galaxy S II phones (replacing their
usual Android operating system). In August 2012, a Nokia
employee demonstrated the OS running on a Raspberry Pi.
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 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 and announced on July 11, 2013. Mozilla's US$25
Firefox smartphone displayed at MWC, is built by Spread
rum. 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.

3)

Core Technologies:

The initial development work involves four major software
layers:
Gonk
Platform denomination for a Combination of the Linux
kernel and the HAL from Android Gecko – the web
browser engine and application run-time services layer;
XULRunner – the run-time system for anything written in
XUL Gaia – an HTML5 layer and user-interface system.
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 teams 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.
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.
XULRunner
XULRunner is the run-time system for anything written in
XUL, especially any Firefox add-ons.
Gaia
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.

4)

Benefits and features:

Mozilla will unleash its new mobile platform Firefox OS
shortly, with devices running the system going on sale in
Venezuela, Poland, Portugal, Brazil, and Spain in June.
There's been a lot of anticipation of the OS from the
outset, as it could potentially change the way mobile is
viewed in some markets. A few months ago, Mozilla’s Vice
President Andreas Gal had explained on mobiForge what
to expect from Firefox OS. So with the launch fast
approaching, now seems like a good time to review the
implications the new OS will have on the mobile world.

To recap, Firefox OS is not a proprietary platform. It's
based on HTML5 and that means that it’s an open
platform. The idea of the "open
Web" is central to Firefox OS according to Andreas Gal.
Mozilla’s intent, he says, is not to create an ecosystem for
Mozilla but to use open Web standards to benefit the
entire value chain, from end users to developers and those
with a direct relationship with the customer, specifically
carriers and OEMs. Firefox OS Is not intended to be
compared with Android or IOS because its purpose is
completely different. For developers, the use of open Web
standards like HTML5, JavaScript and CSS means you can
build Web apps that can access device functions previously
only to available to native apps, for example Bluetooth
and camera functions.
This is an interesting development for emerging markets
for which Firefox OS-based devices are primarily intended.
With increased availability of low cost Android
smartphones in emerging markets such as China and India,
it's strategically interesting that Mozilla's main partner for
Firefox OS is Spanish telecoms giant, Telefonica.
If that doesn’t resound with you, just consider that
Telefonica has more than 200 million subscribers in Latin
America and is very well connected with many carriers all
over the world especially in China (China Unicom), the
USA, as well closer to home in the European market.
Mozilla Chief Operating Officer Jason Sullivan emphasizes
this aspect declaring that "there are still billions of people
who are yet to come online, especially in emerging
markets. We believe there is room for more choices and
more options for them". Handsets running Firefox OS will
be sold for US $80 – 100 before any carrier subsidies or
discounts are applied. So while most low end/ low cost
devices are based on Android now that could easily change
in large emerging markets where people don't want to pay
to download apps, or share revenues when developing
them. And although the initial goal is to gain a foothold in
emerging markets, that doesn't mean that, if well planned
and executed, Firefox OS could not penetrate developed
markets thanks to its openness and its ability to
circumvent Google or Apple app stores.
Firefox OS is an even more open platform than Android
which has to be linked to some of the Google products to
work properly even if based on open source software. It's
no coincidence that a group of companies, including ZTE
and Sony, have already announced plans to offer
smartphones running Firefox OS and Foxconn has
announced that they’re working on a Firefox OS tablet to

meet expectations at every level. Again, with a strategy
based on emerging markets it's likely that Mozilla wants to
grab the attention of HTML5 developers which, according
to Andreas Gal, number "over 8 million compared to
around 100,000 IOS developers and 400,000 Android
developers". The fact that developers can create mobile
apps without big compatibility issues thanks to HTML5
potentially catalyzes mobile app development on Firefox
OS from developers who have previously been focused on
PCs. Furthermore, there are (or there will be in the near
future) APIs for a lot of features which other browsers can
use and integrate. Firefox marketplace could even become
a useful way to monetize apps: it could provide a location
to bill for apps through carrier or OEM billing. This may
turn out to be a very smart move by Mozilla as it raises the
competitive bar for native apps which up to now, have
been closely controlled by the OEMs. It also increases
competition at the device level. If things go as planned,
many players may start looking at how to get a slice of this
new segment of the market, thus helping the competition
between brands.

5)

Conclusion:

Firefox OS is an open platform turning the web into a
platform and ending the era of proprietary platforms. The
reason for the success will be mainly the cheap pricing that
Firefox OS is already bringing to the mobile web market.
However, predictions in this dynamic market are not very
reliable, so let us see how the market evolves.
6)








References:
http://www.mozilla.org/enUS/firefox/os/notes/1.3/
http://groups.google.com/group/mozilla.dev.pla
tform/browse_thread/thread/7668a9d46a43e48
2?pli=1
http://www.mozilla.org/enUS/firefox/os/notes/1.2/
https://wiki.mozilla.org/Platform/GFX/APZ
https://wiki.mozilla.org/FirefoxOS/Tarako
https://wiki.mozilla.org/B2G/Roadmap#Feature_
Complete_Dates
https://wiki.mozilla.org/Release_Management/B
2G_Landing#Versions_and_Scheduling
https://wiki.mozilla.org/Platform/2013-1001#Notices.2FSchedule_.28
www.mobiforge.mobi/news-comment/a-reviewfirefox-os-its-features-and-benefits
www.wikipedia.org/wiki/firefox_OS

http://blog.eurescom.eu/2013/08/14/firefox-osa-new-era-of-the-mobile-web/