When it comes to toying around with operating systems that are specially designed for use with mobile computing devices and gadgets such as smartphones and tablets, the only players out there on the market are Apple's iOS, Google's Android, Research In Motion's BlackBerry OS, HP's webOS and Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 and Windows 7 operating systems, right? Well, not anymore; Mozilla, yes, Mozilla, has just announced its plans to introduce its own mobile OS into the fray. And the name of Mozilla's mobile OS project? Boot To Gecko, or B2G.
Ask just about anybody on the street to name you some popular mobile operating systems that are currently in use and chances are you will get lots of answers about OSes such as iOS, Android, and BlackBerry OS, while some might even bring up more niche solutions such as HP's webOS and Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 and Windows 7 operating systems. However, it seems that the mobile OS market is about to be shaken up with the introduction of what appears to be a new competitor, for Mozilla has just announced its plans to introduce its idea of a mobile operating system into the fray. And the name of Mozilla's mobile OS project? Boot To Gecko, or B2G.
That being said, the questions that are forming in your mind right now will probably be something along the lines of "What in the world is Boot To Gecko", or "Why is Mozilla even making an OS for mobile systems". Well, according to Mozilla's wiki page for the Boot To Gecko or B2G project, the project was started out of a need to "make open web technologies a better basis for future applications on mobile and desktop alike", and to "displace proprietary, single-vendor stacks for application development".
At this point, B2G is still nothing more than a novel concept that has yet to be worked out completely on paper, so suffice to say Mozilla will definitely need at least a year or two's worth of planning and development efforts before anything concrete is ready to be released to the public for testing and modifications. However, what we do know is that Mozilla will not be seeking to reinvent the wheel with its new operating system, especially if the project's discussion logs on Google Groups are of any indication.
Apparently, the logs have suggested that it is likely Mozilla will be seeking to borrow heavily from Android's low level code, although the developers have made it known that they intend to use "as little of Android as possible". This is because the developers are only interested in the benefits Android could provide in the form of its hardware abstraction layer and driver support, as explained by one particular developer:
We intend to use as little of Android as possible, in fact. Really, we want to use the kernel + drivers, plus libc and ancillary stuff. It's not likely that we'll use the Android Java-wrapped graphics APIs, for example. It's nice to start from something that's known to boot and have access to all the devices we want to expose. Maybe that's not the right direction, though, so if someone wants to explore another direction that'd be just fine.
While there is no denying that Mozilla's developers will definitely have their work cut out for them, it is interesting to see whether a completely open solution such as the one Mozilla is proposing will be capable of displacing the likes of single-vendor solutions currently being offered by Apple and Google. However, in what appears to be a mild stab at Google, Mozilla has also promised that all the source code for B2G will be released "in real-time", as opposed to the search giant's approach of withholding code until it deems it suitable for such purposes, like what it has done with Honeycomb.