Boot to Gecko: Mozilla Plans a ChromeOS Rival for Mobile Devices

Mozilla today announced Boot to Gecko, a very ambitious project that aims to create a “complete, standalone operating system for the open web.” This project’s goal is to develop what seems like a ChromeOS-like operating system where all the apps are based on HTML5. This system will use Google’s own open-source Android platform as its basis. The focus, Mozilla’s VP or Technical Strategy Mike Shaver noted in a Google discussion forum today, will be on the “handheld/tablet/mobile experience.” According to Shaver, we may see some PC-based prototypes, but Mozilla is more interested in the “device space.”

Android: Just for Booting and Drivers

The Android connection here is that Boot to Gecko will use the Android kernel and drivers to boot the device. Indeed, Shaver also notes that Mozilla aims to “use as little of Android as possible.” Given that quite a few device makers are already producing drivers for Android (and not necessarily for straightforward Linux implementations), using the lower-level Android layers makes sense for Mozilla.

Break “The Stranglehold of Proprietary Technologies Over the Mobile Device World”

The ultimate ideological goal behind the project, says Mozilla’s Andreas Gal, is to break “the stranglehold of proprietary technologies over the mobile device world.” That does seem like a mobile idea indeed.


Here are some of the areas where Mozilla thinks extra work for getting this project going is still needed: [list]

  • New web APIs: build prototype APIs for exposing device and OS capabilities to content (Telephony, SMS, Camera, USB, Bluetooth, NFC, etc.)
  • Privilege model: making sure that these new capabilities are safely exposed to pages and applications
  • Booting: prototype a low-level substrate for an Android-compatible device;
  • Applications: choose and port or build apps to prove out and prioritize the power of the system.[/list]

It will be interesting to see how developers will react to such a system, a ChromeOS-like “GeckoOS” that is actually popular could mean that developers could focus their energy on building just one application in HTML5 that would run on a large number of devices. As usual, though, this is an uphill fight, as device manufacturers would have to support this system to bring it into mainstream users’ hands.

Mozilla, as a non-profit organization, does have the ability to give these kinds of ideas a try to learn from them, whether they succeed or not.