Mozilla's Boot 2 Gecko mobile OS hands-on

By on March 12, 2012, 8:30 AM

Mozilla has been talking about its Boot 2 Gecko mobile operating system for some time, but it hasn't shown it off in public until recently at Mobile World Congress 2012. The Boot 2 Gecko OS is entirely open source and its interface is built with HTML5 and CSS web standards, making it extremely customizable.

Mozilla demoed the new OS and a proof of concept interface on a Samsung Galaxy S II. The Boot 2 Gecko OS is built upon a Linux kernel, and Mozilla has developed various APIs for functions such as the phone dialer, camera, and 3D graphics. Developers can then tap into those APIs to create interfaces and apps. The proof of concept that we saw was just an example of such interfaces, but since Boot 2 Gecko is entirely open source, carriers and device manufacturers can have a field day with it.

Mozilla stressed how light the interface was, but it wasn't exactly the fastest while we were using it. Touch events and operations were responsive, but framerates for animations were less than smooth - certainly not what we would expect from a device that has the hardware chops of a Galaxy S II. The most impressive part was the 3D graphics demo that Mozilla built, as framerates were smooth and interactions were properly tracked. We couldn't properly test the browser, unfortunately, since there wasn't any connectivity available.

Boot 2 Gecko does have an app store for various webapps that users can purchase and download directly to their phones. There is also a full SMS client and on-screen keyboard that developers can access.

Mozilla has already partnered with European carrier Telefonica to put Boot 2 Gecko on a shipping device, though Telefonica's user interface is completely different from what was shown to us by Mozilla. That is more or less the point of Boot 2 Gecko: since it uses web standards, it can be customized at will. Mozilla has more announcements planned for the future, including other operators and manufacturers. There may be some point in time when you have a Boot 2 Gecko phone in your hand, but you might just not know it.

User Comments: 12

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lawfer, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I still fail to see the real need for this OS to exist. I think Mozilla has too much time on their hands.

SalaSSin said:

Yeah, well, before Apple came with the iPhone, no one was waiting for it either.

Before Google went viral with Android, same story.

I don't know if it will be great or not, but it's always good to have an extra competitor, innovationwise..

lawfer, TechSpot Paladin, said:

SalaSSin said:

Yeah, well, before Apple came with the iPhone, no one was waiting for it either.

Before Google went viral with Android, same story.

I don't know if it will be great or not, but it's always good to have an extra competitor, innovationwise..

Ah, no. When iOS first came out there was nothing like it, and nothing that could work like it.

With Android (which unknown to most, was started even before iOS), it's existence was at least justified as it was more of a iOS competitor.

But the existence of B2G can't simply be justified as it doesn't provide anything better than current platforms.

Just like when RIM released their wireless email-enabled PDAs in 1999, people were sure skeptical; but the thing is, there was <i>nothing</i> quite like it.

What does this OS do to justify the effort it took to create? Android is technically free to OEMs, so it's not exactly targeted for emerging markets. The "open web" Mozilla seems to be obsessed with, is a noble effort, but why, I ask you, there's a need to invest what I assume is millions to engineer an OS that doesn't even rival other platforms?

It's not even so much that it won't rival other platforms, actually. I am sure there are certain advantages to have the "web" as your OS, such as high energy efficiency, high level customization, and so on and so forth. So, to me, the reason why I seek a reason for this OS to exist, is because I fail to understand--as much I as read about this project--why would Mozilla invest on something that will clearly not take off. It's quite apparent this OS is not designed to run complex, killer applications, and even if it somehow did, I'm pretty sure it won't be on par with iOS, Android or WP8.

Just like when they released Firefox on Android. It had a great UI and add-on compatibility, but it was an overall terrible port. And it has stayed like that.

Guest said:

All I can say is...

Stop this nonsense, Mozilla.

We don't need another useless operating system that will take 10 years to even get the basic of basics implemented (Android is guilty in this sense, too; as is Windows Phone).

You want a customizable interface? Fine. Go license Windows and put it in there. Mature operating system with your fluffy interface. Who can complain?

SCJake said:

how long till this gets attacked by M$ though... probably because it "has a browser" or some other stupid BS patent

Butch said:

I doubt this will amount to anything but it can't hurt to have more competition out there I guess.

Guest said:

Looks awesome, way to go Mozilla.

Guest said:

That is really really cool. HTML5 is simple to learn, making this OS incredibly easy to customize. This is actually awesome. I want!

Guest said:

I don't expect any earth-shattering new functionality from B2G initially, but that's OK.

As a consumer, I just want a phone that does the basics well: Web Browsing, Email, Calendar, Music, Camera, VOIP, and Old-fashioned Telephony/SMS (roughly in that order). Right now, I'm in the golden cage of the iPhone. I use it because the basic functions are virtually flawless. I despise it and Apple because I'm not even allowed to experiment with my own device without explicit permission from Apple. I also bitterly resent the paternalistic censorship of the Apple App Store. If I want a pornographic app on my $1000 iPhone, I should be able to have it, goddammit. ;-)

As an iPhone developer, I feel like the little shopkeeper paying the pizzo to the mafia and begging permission from the local boss in order to do any business at all. I also know the Boss can crush me by hitting the kill-switch on my apps or simply steal my ideas at any time and there's not a damn thing I can do about it.

The reason B2G is interesting is its true openness. That's what differentiates it from existing systems. (Android is only slightly more open than iOS. If iOS is a bank vault, Android is a transparent bank vault. Google is just as power-hungry and greedy as Apple. For example, Google just banned the use of 3rd party payment systems from Apps in the Android Market.)

The openness of B2G and its association with Mozilla give it a foundation of trustworthiness and will make it a breeding ground for innovation. Because there zillions of java script /CSS experts out there, I expect to see excellent apps for the basic functions (Mail, Calendar, Music, etc) virtually over night, once B2G is released.

The main competition to B2G is the recently open-sourced WebOS. But since WebOS requires learning yet another API, I'm investing my very limited resources in HTML5 & B2G.

Guest said:

Folks, some of you are very much in favour of this, and others are seemingly very upset by this. I'm not certain I understand your emotional investment. Unless you're upset that funds you donated were used for projects you don't support (in which case, I'm sure Mozilla would accept your earmarked funds if you spoke directly to them and then you wouldn't support projects you didn't like), I'm not certain you have the right to be angry. This is not to say I support this project, or think it's the next great contender.

Now, I'm not a Mozilla fanboy, I only used their wares until something better came along, but you can't say this is a shocker.

For years now I've been distributing computers that were nothing more than glorified internet access devices. I started with win98 computers since I had been handed a good number of legitimate free copies that a store couldn't move once 2k hit the shelves, and then moved to Linux when that ran out. Most folks are starting to admit that, except for processor intensive games, the majority of what they use the computer for is online through a web browser. Had this not been the case, ChromeOS would never have existed.

Personally, I think both ChromeOS and this Boot2Gecko have a place in this world for those who do not feel the need to install applications and would rather link to them. Web Applications are increasing in number, complexity, diversity, and doing so with thoughts to mobile devices as they grow. We have online storage available for free at dozens of sites, and online office applications by Google and Microsoft and who knows who else? Most email is available through a web interface, as are most calendars in use by businesses and individuals.

Are they the right choice for everyone? No. Are they the right choice for you? Depends on your personal needs. Is there a niche market for these? Yes, consider those who are scared of learning computers in the first place, or for those that just surfing the web required them to take courses at their local senior center. There are folks that admit that they are technologically challenged, something that doesn't require installing software might just make their lives easier.

It's not going to change my life directly, but perhaps my step-mother will finally have a phone that she isn't scared of using.

Guest said:


I had a pocket PC. I was looking at pocket PC phones before the iPhone. I skipped the first one due to the lack of GPS. It's a nice UI but it's not unprecedented.

Being a desktop browser may be a dead end path. There is huge growth in mobile. The best way to get your browser on a phone is to control the OS. Mozilla just wants to try and stay relevant.

I hope Mozilla can pull this together. My hope is that it will push HTML5 apps further and faster than the other platforms have.

Who knows what will come of this. It's certainly more open and community driven than android. Consider it an experiment. Are you against taking a chance of learning something new?

TechSpringboard TechSpringboard said:

There is a Meetup video of Andreas Gal from Mozilla presenting about Boot 2 Gecko on YouTube:

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