"imitation is the sincerest form of flattery", Google Inc. (GOOG)
must have at least one fan of its Chrome Operating System (OS) project, as the Mozilla Foundation has announced plans for an operating system that
seems eerily reminiscent to the new Google concoction.
Mozilla's new OS is going to be called "Boot to Gecko", or
"B2G" for short. Gecko is the name of the layout engine found
in Mozilla's popular Firefox browser. The new OS is geared towards
handsets -- though open source netbooks and budget laptops, like those of
Chrome OS, may eventually be in the works as well.
The browser maker is even going to use the Android kernel and device drivers as
the base of the operating system, although it intends to "use as little of
Android as possible."
Mozilla research engineer Andreas Gal provides more details,
revealing that the goal is to make an HTML5-driven web environment, in which
web apps provide comparable functionality to traditional apps. To that
end Mozilla will be making available a set of B2G APIs -- including telephony,
messaging, camera, and communications (USB, NFC and Bluetooth) -- which will
allow developers to (presumably) easily create a B2G web app.
Mozilla seems quite ambitious to these ends. Mr. Gal says that the goal
of the project is to "[B]uild a complete, standalone operating system for
the open web [and] break the stranglehold of proprietary technologies
over the mobile device world."
If Mozilla can make an easy to use environment with fully functional in-browser
apps -- a goal Google is also striving towards -- the results will pay off
equally in the PC world. Mr. Gal comments that the "[Is not just] to
have these native-grade apps just run on Firefox, we're trying to have them run
on the web."
While Chrome OS is the most comparable project currently on the market, the
operating system also draws comparisons to Hewlett-Packard Company's (HPQ)
webOS, whose apps are built around internet languages like Java, XML, Flash,
and HTML5. WebOS, however, is a proprietary, close-source code.
Google has a bit of a step up on Mozilla. Its first Chromebook -- the Samsung Series 5 -- launched earlier
last month, priced at $499. Despite the relatively high price for a
netbook/webbook, the device reached #5 in online retailer Amazon.com, Inc.'s (AMZN)
"Computers & Accessories" section. Google has said it is
"very pleased" with sales, though it declined to reveal exact
Chrome OS, along with its open source development counterpart "Chromium
OS", was announced in July 2009. While many dismissed it as "just
another Linux distribution", it was the first major Linux OS to
deliver a browser-centered UI. Unlike B2G, Google has made it clear the
Chrome OS is only
meant for PCs -- not tablets or handsets.