Mozilla: Firefox Mobile will kill off app stores

The iPhone App Store could become a thing of the past, claims Mozilla, as it encourages developers to write apps for the web

Barry Collins
17 Dec 2009

Mozilla claims that its new Firefox Mobile browser could be the beginning of the end for the hugely popular app stores created by Apple and its ilk.

Mozilla is releasing the first version of Firefox Mobile (codenamed Fennec) on Nokia's N900 handset, with versions for Windows Mobile and Android set to arrive next year.

The foundation claims that Firefox Mobile will have the fastest Javascript engine of any mobile browser, allowing developers to create apps for the browser instead of creating multiple versions of the same app for different mobile OSes.

"Anyone who knows JavaScript and HTML can develop a great app without having to learn a specific mobile platform," Jay Sullivan, vice president of mobile at Mozilla told PC Pro.

In the interim period, apps will be very successful. Over time, the web will win because it always does

Sullivan claims developers are frustrated by the difficulties of writing for multiple mobile platforms. "We look at the problems it creates for small innovators," he said. "You have to create an iPhone app, an Android app, a Windows Mobile app..."

"As developers get more frustrated with quality assurance, the amount of handsets they have to buy, whether their security updates will get past the iPhone approval process... I think they'll move to the web."

Sullivan says it will take time to wean developers away from the app store model, which has been heralded as one of the chief reasons for the iPhone's success. "In the interim period, apps will be very successful. Over time, the web will win because it always does."

Desktop features

Many of the features users have grown used to on Firefox's PC browser will be available in the mobile version. The Awesome Bar - which uses bookmarks and browsing history to auto-complete web addresses as users begin to type a website's URL or name - will appear in Firefox Mobile.

The mobile browser will be continually synchronised with the PC. "When you start typing [into the mobile browser], the website you went to on the desktop a week ago will just pop up," Sullivan said.

The synchronisation will extend beyond the Awesome Bar. "We will sync browser tabs in real time," Sullivan adds. "If you have five, 10, 20 tabs open on your PC and something happens and you have to leave, you can pick up where you left off on your phone."

Firefox Mobile will also support browser add-ons. "Some are existing add-ons for the PC, some are brand new," Sullivan claims.

Sullivan admits that features such as multiple tab support and add-ons will require Mozilla to carefully manage the browser's memory, so that it doesn't consume too much of the phone's limited resources. "We have to flush the memory more often [than on the desktop browser]," Sullivan said. "The goal is to create the feeling that we do for the desktop user."

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