FirefoxOS … Why?

“That’s probably our most frequently asked question”, said the Mozilla rep at the Firefox booth when I asked him why as an Android user I might prefer FirefoxOS.

For those who haven’t been keeping tabs on it, Mozilla is launching a new mobile device operating system in Q2. Although based on Linux like Android, FirefoxOS is stripped of much of the rest of the layers Google adds to Linux and is meant to be even more “open.”

It’s slated to ship in Q2 of this year in Eastern Europe and Latin America. It is free to carriers and runs on relatively cheap low-energy hardware. The demo unit I saw was by ascendant Chinese manufacturer ZTE. Mozilla itself is a not-for-profit organization – their only source of revenue for FirefoxOS is apparently small payments they will collect from Bing, Google and Yahoo for referring search traffic. The topic for their MWC keynote is “Connecting the next 2 billion”. So it would seem as though the primary technology it’s meant to replace isn’t Android or iPhone per se, but feature phones.

Apps on FirefoxOS are all based on HTML5, so essentially everything is a web app. They thus like to say that the platform can support “8 million apps”, referring to their estimate of there being roughly 8 million websites. From the home screen you can swipe over to a pane called “Dynamic App Search”. In the demo I saw, you can type in “U2” and it pulls up “apps” like YouTube and Soundcloud. By tapping an app from this screen, you can “sample” it, basically using a simplified version – effectively a mobile-optimized website. If you long-press on it, you can add it to your home screen and then use a richer full version of the HTML5 web app.

There’s a Firefox marketplace to help with app discovery, and Mozilla validates apps to ensure they are not malware. If cleared, these apps are given lower level access to the core phone APIs (camera, storage etc.)

But you (or a brand) can also make their own app market, invoking your own standards for apps and your own pricing structure and billing setup. It’s just like on the web, where different websites offer a variety of shopping and purchase experiences.

So FirefoxOS is indeed fundamentally different from Android (and iOS for that matter). It is more open and flexible, and is likely not onerous to code for since it is built deliberately around the HTML5 standard. I came away feeling like there very well could be a role for it in the larger mobile ecosystem, particularly in developing markets that are stepping up from widespread feature phone usage.

How the iPad is reshaping the Web

iPad continues to create ripples through the mobile, eReader, and online applications worlds. Here are five ways the device is transforming the Web as we know it:

1) Where has all my flash gone?  Or Hello, HTML 5
This is playing out in the press with a great flourish as everyone scrambles to understand apple’s strategy and relationship with Adobe.   85% of the top websites use flash (according to Adobe Labs) so Flash isn’t going to go away but HTML 5 will be a new way to navigate the web and consume applications,  without relying on Java or other plugins.  The very nature of how pages are built and how you navigate the web will be an application metaphor.  And playing off the current popularity of location based services, with HTML5, the browser on any device can detect the user’s geographical location if approved by that user.  This makes it possible for web pages to explore location aware experiences.   And video consumption will also really benefit because you won’t be relying on proprietary plug-ins that are CPU intensive.  And as of this week, Revision 3, a popular broadband TV site, announced it now supports video playback on the Apple iPad, thanks to its foray into HTML5.  You’ll see other major video consumption sites follow suite as the game changes again for video on and offline.  (HTML 5 will also be a player in the set top box world) Continue reading “How the iPad is reshaping the Web”

New era of digital publishing

Changes happening fast in digital publishing (iStock)The personal digital publishing revolution has been happening for awhile. But a few announcements today make it clear that the wheels of progress are turning faster than ever before. And, that we’re getting closer to the plug-and-play-don’t-make-me-think-open-standards era.

First, at Google’s developer conference, the search and Web giant presented its “intentions” with HTML 5. Continue reading “New era of digital publishing”