Boot to Gecko
30th May 2012 | 21:29
Mozilla jumps into the mobile OS pool with both feet. Or did they?
At Mobile World Conference (MWC) Mozilla announced partnerships with cell phone carrier Telfonica and hardware manufacturer Qualcom that would eventually lead to a browser-based cell phone that, simply put, "runs" on Gecko (or HTML 5).
At CTIA 2012, Mozilla was present and TechRadar was able to get a hands on demonstration of a working device running the mobile OS Boot to Gecko. Or is it a mobile OS afterall?
A Mozilla representative walked us through the phone and one of the first things that they told us is that the product isn't really a mobile OS. Rather, the model that we tested is running Gecko (or HTML 5) on top of a thin Linux kernel.
Mozilla was demonstrating Boot to Gecko on a Samsung Galaxy S2 that had been "wiped clean." After rooting the device, they installed a thin Linux kernel before installing Gecko on top of that.
They next developed APIs that enable the "OS" to speak to the hardware: battery, Wi-Fi, etc. Additionally they completely rebuilt the camera API.
While Gecko is basically the rendering engine for Firefox, the entire experience is web-enabled and extremely fast. Also, the user interface is very slick and the OS too feels fast. The rather large tiles that represent the primary way of navigating around the phone reminds us of the Windows Mobile interface. And we liked that.
Because it's basically a web-browser, Mozilla hopes that app development for the OS will be easy, meaning that the device won't suffer from a dearth of third-party apps.
Another really cool feature about this OS is that it boasts WebGL. In our demo they showed off the 3D capabilities of the OS specifically with gaming in mind.
The OS that we tested is Pre-alpha but Mozilla is encouraging users to try it for themselves. Simply put, if you can root your cell phone, you can install it. Of course, in order to make it work will require a somewhat significant level of technological sophistication.