Feeds

Mozilla picks JavaScript titan Eich to lead charge against 'Droid, iOS

Must race Ubuntu, Tizen and Sailfish onto the battlefield

High performance access to file storage

JavaScript daddy and Mozilla chief technology officer Brendan Eich is taking over Firefox’s dive into mobile as the open-source shop hits an important juncture.

He’s taking over as Mozilla fights for the hearts and minds of devs who might once have defaulted to Firefox, but are now being dazzled with open-source choices.

As CTO since 2005, Eich's responsibilities had included setting Mozilla’s technical strategy, working on web standards and working on partners, in addition to coding.

Now, Mozilla – the organization Eich helped co-found in 2003 – has seen fit to give him more product focus after eight years in the CTO’s position.

What does that mean?

Summarizing, in Eich’s blog here he says he’ll be “sharpening” Mozilla’s focus on technology trends including mobile, multi-core and GPU processing, in addition to a “more laser-like focus” on users.

That’s important, he reckons, to deliver on Mozilla’s mission of promoting an open web and to encourage greater participation from ordinary netizens.

He reckoned Mozilla’s on the right track with Firefox OS – formerly Boot to Gecko, Mozilla’s open-source and browser-loving operating system for smart phones – with Firefox for Android, Firefox on the desktop, and initiatives like Persona and Web Maker. But, Eich wrote, Mozilla must “continue, with even sharper focus on what’s in front of us.”

He blogged:

On mobile this means not just great user interfaces and fast, smooth performance. It also means ... expanding up the stack to fight proprietary lock-in that diminishes developer and user experience. We did it with Firefox in 2004, we can do it again with Firefox OS, Firefox for Android, Persona and beyond.

Eich steps up at a critical time.

Firefox has been Mozilla’s biggest single success to date, with the browser eating the market share of IE. For several years however the explosive growth of the mid-to-late 2000s, 40 per cent per year, has stopped and Firefox has stalled – stuck on a quarter of web surfers with the baton handed to Google’s Chrome.

Fortunately for Mozilla, PC sales are falling and tablets and smart phones exploding making this – arguably – less important; that means Firefox must also now ride tablets and smart phones.

Mozilla last year killed its Firefox for iOS. The iPhone and iPad were difficult given Apple’s WebKit-based Safari is the default browser and fact that when Apple customers tap services online they are using the browser’s framework. Native code is not allowed on the iPhone or iPad, so it wasn’t even the full Firefox browser.

Apple's work has meant that the internet is more than just a browser when it comes to a smartphone. It’s now about merging the web and device in such a way that operating system, browser and the phone’s functions – like dialler or camera - merge to deliver the kind of polish Apple has achieved on the iPhone.

Mozilla’s answer to this is Firefox OS, a Linux-based operating system that runs HTML5 web apps using the Gecko open-source layout engine used in Firefox, and that opens up the phone's on-board systems such as the accelerometer or dialler to the web.

Forget Microsoft - the competition is already open

This is no re-run of the early days of IE versus Firefox, though, when Mozilla ran against a complacent incumbent. This time there are at least three rivals in the field and – worse - they are also all coming at Mozilla from the open-source camp. They are Ubuntu for Smartphones from Canonical, the Linux Foundation’s Tizen – with chip giant Intel and electronics giant Samsung leading – and Sailfish based on Meego but from a group of ex Nokia engineers calling themselves Jolla.

All three are architectural cousins, following the Apple model of removing the Chinese Wall that had separated browser, operating system and device in the old days of Java ME and Nokia’s Symbian. All are open source and run HTML 5 using onboard hardware acceleration and without firing up the browser as you would on the desktop.

All will appeal to some sections of the open source and open-web crowd - the question is how many will follow and will their numbers manage to sink the others.

Tizen is the Linux kernel, a set of graphic libraries called the Enlightenment Foundation Libraries (EFL) and the WebKit runtime used in Safari and Chrome browsers. Sailfish uses the Mer fork of MeeGo with its own MeeGo Graphical User Interface, HTML5, QML and Qt – the development framework bought and then spun out by Nokia for building apps spanning devices and desktops, from Windows and Mac to Linux and Symbian.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Windows 8.1, which you probably haven't upgraded to yet, ALREADY OBSOLETE
Pre-Update versions of new Windows version will no longer support patches
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
OpenSSL Heartbleed: Bloody nose for open-source bleeding hearts
Bloke behind the cockup says not enough people are helping crucial crypto project
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Half of Twitter's 'active users' are SILENT STALKERS
Nearly 50% have NEVER tweeted a word
Windows XP still has 27 per cent market share on its deathbed
Windows 7 making some gains on XP Death Day
Internet-of-stuff startup dumps NoSQL for ... SQL?
NoSQL taste great at first but lacks proper nutrients, says startup cloud whiz
US taxman blows Win XP deadline, must now spend millions on custom support
Gov't IT likened to 'a Model T with a lot of things on top of it'
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.