updated 02:55 pm EST, Mon February 27, 2012
Project finally nearing completion
Boot 2 Gecko aims to replicate the current smartphone experience of a typical mobile OS, such as Android or iOS. Mozilla has faced challenges attempting to build web APIs for certain essential functions such as SMS messaging, dialing, camera operation and connectivity. Some of the issues remain unresolved, but the company appears to feel confident enough in the beta to show it off this week in Barcelona.
The current Gecko build, which is still considered a tech preview, arranges the essential functions as tile-like icons on the home screen. Users can quickly access messaging, calling, browsing and other functions by tapping on the icons, in the same basic way as any other touch-based OS, however the simple approach seems a bit clunky and archaic compared to current iOS and Android builds.
Mozilla showed us gaming, the camera app, the dialier, messaging, video playback and several other features. The demo was impressive, considering the reliance on web standards, though the company clearly has much more work ahead if it wants to catch up to the overall experience of iOS, Android or Windows Phone.
The company is working for a noble cause, attempting to break away from the intermediate OS in the spirit of open source and true cross-platform compatibility. The big question remains to be answered--will developers and hardware makers have enough reason to push beyond the current model?
At least one carrier, Telefonica, is giving the idea a chance, teaming with Mozilla to bring a Gecko-based device to the market. The carrier suggests Gecko will allow it to better serve a neglected segment of the market, bringing smartphone features at feature-phone prices. Final pricing and launch information has yet to be announced.
Update: Telefonica has confirmed that the Gecko program will be tied into the "Open Web Devices" platform, which is expected to launch sometime this year.
"This platform will lead the evolution of the HTML5 set of standards to add new software APIs that are as broad and functionally rich as their native counterparts," Telefonica said in a statement. "The objective is that there are no proprietary APIs within the device architecture, making phones developed using it the only truly open devices on the market."
The hardware platform is said to be based on a Qualcomm chipset, however additional details surrounding the phone itself remain unclear.