Breakfast Briefing: Firefox 18’s speed boost, ZTE’s Mozilla handsets and inside the iTunes economy

Today’s tech round-up includes news of a massive boost in Firefox’s app performance, ZTE’s plans for a Mozilla smartphone, a deep dive into iTunes economics, and a look at the irrelevance of Office on iPad.

Breakfast Briefing: Firefox 18's speed boost, ZTE's Mozilla handsets and inside the iTunes economy

Firefox 18 touts performance hikes

The Next Web reports that Mozilla has taken the wraps off Firefox 18, with significant performance improvements for the browser.

According to Mozilla, the browser includes a new JavaScript compiler called IonMonkey that leads to a 25% performance boost in JavaScript-heavy web apps and games, while there’s also added support for the Retina displays used in Apple’s top-end MacBooks.

ZTE planning Mozilla-based smartphones

ZTE is planning to release handsets using a smartphone operating system from browser heavyweight Mozilla, according to a report from Bloomberg. The company is reportedly working with a European supplier with a view to ending its reliance on Google’s Android, which accounts for three quarters of smartphone shipments. The European handsets should be launched this year, with a possible extension to other markets if trials are successful.

“We closely monitor the ecosystem and how it evolves,” ZTE’s boss Cheng Lixin said. “If that is ready and if consumer studies support that data, then we may launch one in US also this year.”

Inside the iTunes economy

Analysis blog Asymco has taken the lid off Apple’s recent iTunes figures, breaking them down into earnings by developers and publishers, as well as by category. Amid the clamour for apps, the surprising finding is that they only represent a third of iTunes earnings, with video and music content still claiming the lion’s share of consumer spending.

According to the research, iTunes now takes some $12bn a year, with revenue rising by between 32% and 39% for each of the past four years. However, app sales are growing faster than media sales, with iPhone and iPad software growing at 50% compared to 28% for music and video content.

Coding career advice

Choosing which languages to specialise in can make the difference between a long and lucrative career tending legacy installations and a trip back to coding school to learn the latest code of the moment. Dr Dobbs has a look at the languages that thrived during 2012 and those that failed to materialise, and it’s worth a read to find out just how long some codebases need care and attention.

Office on iOS – why bother?

MacWorld looks at Microsoft finally offering an iOS version of its Office productivity suite, but fundamentally ponders whether it’s too little too late. In a sweeping attack on one of Microsoft’s key earners, MacWorld argues that most of Office’s functions are anachronisms, and expensive ones at that, especially given cheaper, more simple options.

“I’m not claiming that office applications are going to die out — that would be a stupid argument to make. But I do find them to be an anachronism,” the article concludes. “Mobile platforms and the web have taught us the flip side of that old saw: If you hate something, let it go. If it doesn’t come back, good riddance.”

Foxconn under investigation over bribery claims

Chinese manufacturer Foxconn has a habit of popping up in the worst news stories surrounding the tech industry, with the maker of gadgets for companies from Apple and Samsung to Sony often criticised for working conditions. Now the company is under investigation over allegations members of staff accepted bribes from suppliers. According to TechCrunch ten workers are being investigated internally by the company, while officials are also probing the payments.

“We can confirm that we are working with law enforcement officials who we brought in to work with our own internal audit team as part of an investigation into allegations against a number of Foxconn employees related to illegal payments from supply chain partners,” the company said.

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