Mobile developers know that Mozilla is working on Firefox OS, a lightweight mobile OS for lower-end smartphones. Now they have the chance to kick the tires on the software, with a beta Firefox OS Simulator available via the desktop browser.
Known as “r2d2b2g,” the prototype simulator will allow developers to tinker a bit with an early build of the platform and test out any Firefox OS apps in development. Hacks.mozilla.org offers a detailed installation and management guide. Firefox OS has been built in HTML5, a collection of open Web standards that developers use to craft rich Websites and Web-based applications.
“We’re angling for a ‘1.0’ release of the Simulator soon,” read a note on Hacks.mozilla.org. “Our main goal with 1.0 is to make it easy to run B2G and install apps that you’re working on into it, and we’re a good way toward that goal right now.”
Formerly known as “Boot to Gecko,” the Firefox OS is based around a sizable handful of open APIs. The interface is vaguely reminiscent of Google Android and Apple’s iOS, at least insofar as it offers grids of icons linked to applications. However, Mozilla’s stated aim is to make Firefox OS more open than either of those popular platforms. Google has kept portions of the Android OS closed, while Apple’s iOS is a walled garden of a proprietary system.
“Rather than build things in secret, we tell the world what we’re going to do and invite participation,” Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs told a group of technology writers at a San Francisco event in September. “Mozilla will not be the gatekeeper.”
Mozilla’s target audience for the software is developing countries such as Brazil and China, where lower-end smartphones are popular. If everything goes according to plan, Firefox OS will also support a variety of application stores, another deviation from the traditional mobile model, where a platform like Android or iOS supports only its own apps storefront. “The Web is the platform,” as Mozilla likes to explain on its Firefox OS Webpage.
The first hardware running Firefox OS will reportedly appear in 2013.