Mozilla Announces Smartphone OS to Compete with iOS, Android

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Mozilla announced Tuesday Boot to Gecko (B2G), the open source organization’s entry into the smartphone operating system business. The organization said that it, “believes that the Web can displace proprietary, single-vendor stacks for application development” with a cloud-based operating system based around HTML 5.

In other words, Mozilla wants to free us from the tyranny of not only proprietary smartphone OSes like Android and Windows Phone, but whole widget devices like Apple’s iOS ecosystem, too. The group thinks it can accomplish this mission with an open source OS and Web apps.

In a blog post announcing the project, the group said, “We want to take a bigger step now, and 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 WP7.”

The post added, “To that end, we propose a project we’re calling Boot to Gecko (B2G) to pursue the goal of building a complete, standalone operating system for the open web. It’s going to require work in a number of areas.”

The project is being built from the ground up, except where it isn’t. More specifically, the Mozilla team said that it will be working on a prototype of, “a low-level substrate for an Android-compatible device.”

The news has been greeted with a mixed reaction from the tech blogosphere and the mainstream media, with many questions so far centering around whether the market is asking for an open source operating system for smartphones, and if a group that has had so much trouble delivering a fully functional mobile browser is capable of shepherding such a product to completion.

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android is not a “proprietary OS” seeing as how one can download the ENTIRE source code from google’s servers quite easily.
The “artist rendering” is absolutely hilarious.

either way, the phone will likely be linux-based, so not that different from android in that respect.


android is not a ?proprietary OS? seeing as how one can download the ENTIRE source code from google?s servers quite easily.

I don’t think you understand what proprietary means.  Google owns the android source code, and you must agree to a license for it.  You are not free to modify and distribute your own version of it.  Hence it is still proprietary software.


Android is proprietary ... Controlled by good ‘ole Google.


Google owns the android source code, and you must agree to a license for it.? You are not free to modify and distribute your own version of it.? Hence it is still proprietary software.

Uh, totally incorrect. Android is absolutely open source, and you are absolutely free to modify and distribute your own version of it. Use of the Android source code is licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0.


It will be interesting to see how many non-open-source features Mozilla has to put into their phone to get it to work. Just because they’re starting with an open-source application doesn’t mean they won’t have to license some things to actually get the phone to make a call.

Look at all the patents Apple is having to argue against. Mozilla will have to do the same thing.

Lee Dronick

I can see tomorrow’s business news, “AAPL soars on opening to $535 after news of Boot to Gecko”

Gregor Samsa

No, Android is not proprietary -Google does lead the development effort, but it is open source.

I don’t believe you are the one who understand what open source means; here is a good definition:

“An open-source license is a copyright license for computer software that makes the source code available for everyone to use. “

As for Android, Google released most of the Android code under the Apache License, a free software and open source license.

Finally, you can download the entire source code for Android here:

The Android source source is available for anyone -hence, it is open source.


While it is clear that Boot To Gecko (BG), in competing against iOS, Windows Phone 7, and WebOS, would be competing against proprietary and closed mobile operating systems, some of our interlocutors disagree that BG’s competition with Android would also be competition against a proprietary mobile operating system.  I think that the confusion lies in how Google licenses Android to its Android OEMs and that understanding something about Android’s license can help decide whether it be proprietary or open or some curios hybrid of the two.

Yes, Google does license Android.  Even though orthodox Android is built upon a Linux kernel, it has proprietary elements that Android OEMs must license from Google, and those elements are essential to building an Android device, or at least an orthodox Android device.  Google’s license provides its OEMs, inter alia, with these permissions:  The right to use Google and Android trademarks; the right to timely updates to the Android OS; the right to certain essential components of the Android’s stack that are proprietary to Google; and the right to make an Android device that can use the Android Market Place for apps.  As you can see, these are very important rights, without which most OEMs would not have the resources to build and market an Android device. 

Google, however, does not charge a monetary royalty for its Android license.  Google’s consideration for its Android license requires Android OEMs to install Google’s services (search, location services, Gmail, etc.) and to comply with certain reference standards for making Android hardware and for implementing Android on their devices.  Google makes its money from its services, which it uses to collect valuable personal data about Android’s users to sell to advertisers and marketers.  But even that is a two-step, because though Google’s service are the default services on Android, which are practically impossible for a layperson to remove, to get access to those services, a user must accept the terms for a Google account, which grant Google broad rights to collect and exploit that user’s personal information.  If the user declines to accept a Google account, most of Google’s service simply won’t work, leaving the user with a greatly impaired, if not useless, Android device.  And, of course, much of the information on a Google Android device is held in Google’s cloud, and moving your personal information out of Google’s cloud to another non-Android device can range from difficult to impossible.  See the discussion at

Yet, Android is open in the sense that anyone can take the non-proprietary elements of it and branch those elements to make an Android device that is completely independent of Google.  However, very few OEMs, even rather large and wealth ones, have the resources to forgo the proprietary elements of Android by assuming the development and updating of a branched version of Android; establishing the brand for their own trademark; replacing the proprietary of components of Android’s stack with either their own components or open-source components; and replace Android’s Market Place with their own app store and app ecosystem.

So is Android open?  Well, only if you have the resources to replace all of Google’s proprietary elements with your own, as certain Chinese OEMs have done so successfully for their home market, China, that Google has been utterly devastated in that country.  But for the rest, HTC, Samsung, Motorola, etc., who sell Android devices outside of China, Google’s Android is just as proprietary as anything issuing from Microsoft or Apple.

See which discusses Google’s licensing of Android.

P.S. And remember that nothing is free, sometimes especially the things that seem so.


Is this the old April fools joke from before the iPhone’s first release?  It sure looks like.  A one line screen, no GUI, and probably designed for the visually impaired.  That’s what I call a brick!  It looks like a cell phone from the early 1990s, or one of those satellite phones.


Although open sourced, Google maintains control of manufacturers by offering a preferred window of availability to those handset makers that adhere to Google?s preferred concepts

Cheers !

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