GIG On The 4Cast – Andreas Gal, Mozilla’s Director of Research talks about Boot 2 Gecko and more!

Boot 2 Gecko is Mozilla’s first venture into building a new firmware platform for mobile devices. Touted to be completely based on “the power of Open Web” – like HTML5, Boot 2 Gecko, brings out amazing prospects and possibilities in eliminating the need to build apps on platform-specific APIs. Just like most of you, we had a few obvious questions about the project and we caught up with Andreas Gal, Mozilla’s Director of Research to answer us.

What is the B2G Project trying to bring? We know it’s all about bringing Open Web standards to mobile devices. Could you just elaborate a little?

Boot to Gecko is about building a complete, standalone operating system for the open Web, and is designed with the intention of doing away with the “walled garden” approach of today’s modern mobile operating systems. Mozilla believes that the next frontier for Web applications is full device integration, so that Web developers have the same capabilities as those building for OS-specific stacks. The project’s proposed architecture would allow developers everywhere to use HTML5 to write directly to the Web, so they can create amazing user experiences and apps unencumbered by the rules and restrictions of closely controlled platforms.

Gecko powers Firefox, yes. What makes this engine so special for it to be chosen to power the Mobile devices as well?

Gecko lies at the heart of Mozilla and Firefox browsers. It is small, lightweight and open source, making it a natural fit to power the open Web on mobile devices.

Android is already considered to be Open Source by many. If so, why not contribute to that instead of forming a new project? And if not, why do you say so?

Some Android source code is available, but not all. Android is proprietary Google technology. The roadmap is influenced by Google only; Google picks what technology is in Android, and does so secretively. Boot to Gecko is developed entirely in the open, and all B2G source code is available online on GitHub for all to see. Operators and OEMs can actively and openly contribute to the code, instead of Mozilla developing internally and making code drops available.

Is the B2G powered phone completely web dependent? What about basic phone dependencies?

Boot2Gecko implements basic phone functionality using the Web. We can make regular phone calls, but use an HTML5 UI for that.

What mobile technologies is Mozilla planning to incorporate inside the phone? Will this phone support 3G/4G networks?

We are working with OEMs to create a phone, and the exact specification of the phone is up to our OEM partners.

What is project Gaia? How does it differ from B2G project?

Gaia is a companion project to Boot to Gecko and is the implementation of a Web-based mobile user experience. Gaia is a collection of Web apps that make up the user interface for the Boot to Gecko project. B2G focuses on the platform and backend.

The concept of bringing open web to a larger crowd is appreciable. But do you think Mozilla can outrun the iOS and Android?

Our goal is not to outrun other platforms, but to offer an alternative for developers and consumers. What we are doing with Boot to Gecko is unleashing the power of the Web on mobile.

Traditional proprietary platforms lock users into their native environments, forcing developers to develop applications for several platforms in parallel, and locking users into these platforms once they have purchased devices or applications. With Boot to Gecko, developers can target a single, ubiquitous platform and are no longer subject to arbitrary rules and restrictions of the silo owner. For users, Boot to Gecko makes it easier to port applications across devices running different operating systems. Ideally, the technology pioneered or refined in Boot to Gecko will make its way into all mobile browsers, so that enhanced open Web applications can be great regardless of operating system or device. We look forward to working with other OS and browser developers on standards activities and even implementations.

Once the project is successful, will this project pave way for newer versions of phone operating systems based of B2G just as how Firefox and Thunderbird today are used by many as a source to release their own custom versions of applications ? What do you see as its implications?

The Boot to Gecko project is designed to build on the success of the Web, and given the early stage of the project, it could reach users in many forms. Our primary motivation is to offer users and developers an open alternative to proprietary stacks. We expect developers to leverage in a number of different ways.

Why choose Qualcomm based hardware for the device? How good it is in terms of performance and how cost-effective is it?

Mozilla has partnered with Qualcomm to deliver the first devices, and we will expand the scope of our silicon vendor program to more vendors as the project grows. Qualcomm currently delivers the chipset for a large volume of Android-based smartphones, which is the DNA of the device. It’s a very easy and efficient experience for OEM to integrate with Qualcomm.

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