MWC 2014: Mozilla bolsters Firefox OS ecosystem with new hardware and tools

Mozilla has unveiled new developer reference hardware and tools designed to make it easier and cheaper for developers, operators and OEMs to deploy innovative Web apps and create personalized Firefox OS experiences.

Mozilla announced a 4.5″ dual-core reference phone that allows developers to test new Firefox OS features and apps against different memory configurations.

In another development, Mozilla expanded the Mozilla tablet program that helps developers test their apps and build out Firefox OS for tablets.

The new developer tools allow OEMs and operators to easily customize Firefox OS for a variety of customer segments.

Mozilla also announced new Firefox OS PhoneGap integration, allowing hundreds of thousands of PhoneGap developers to port their existing apps to Firefox OS in a matter of hours.

Mozila firefox

The new reference devices, tools, and WebAPIs will help break down the barriers and restrictions inflicted by other app ecosystems.

Firefox OS has been gaining momentum, capturing 7 percent of developer mindshare in just six months, says a new report from Vision Mobile.

During Q1 2014, 52 percent of developers were already using HTML5 for mobile websites or Web apps with an additional 16 percent indicating their intention to join them, the report said.

Another report by Strategy Analytics found that the number of mobile app developers building for Firefox OS is expected to triple this year, showing the biggest rise in developer interest of any mobile platform.

This industry momentum is fueled by the fact that there are already millions of Web developers programming in HTML5 who are eager to target mobile without having to learn a new programming language, or pay engineers to target specific mobile platforms.

The newly launched reference hardware, tools, and WebAPIs are expected to continue to drive growth of the Firefox OS ecosystem and help prove why the Web is a powerful platform for app development and distribution:

The new Flame developer reference phone from Mozilla is powered by a Qualcomm 1.2GH dual core processor, so developers can test their more processor-intensive games and apps with ease.

Developers looking to target their apps for specific Firefox OS phones with lower memory footprints also have the option to alter the RAM capacity of the Flame, from 1GB to 256MB, to see how their apps would perform on lower specked phones.

The Flame also provides developers and early adopters with access to the latest Firefox OS builds to test nightly releases and contribute to the overall development platform.

Firefox OS will be supported in the next release of PhoneGap, the leading developer tool for building apps across platforms. This builds on the recently announced Firefox OS integration with Cordova, a popular Apache Foundation open source project that allows HTML5 applications to be packaged as native apps.

PhoneGap is an open source Apache Cordova project. The mobile application development framework allows developers to write an app with HTML, CSS and JavaScript, and then deploy it to a wide range of mobile devices with the same capabilities as native apps. With the Firefox OS integration, developers can now port their existing PhoneGap apps to Firefox OS quickly.

App Manager brings the Firefox Web developer tools to mobile app developers. It shows how the power of the Web helps developers test, deploy and debug Web apps on Firefox OS phones directly from their desktop.

The Firefox Web developer tools are already used by millions of Web developers for creating Web pages, and now the App Manager extends these capabilities to mobile app creation, with the same familiar workflow. There is no SDK to download, developers simply use the App Manager as part of the integrated developer tools in the Firefox browser.

Mozilla now offers more than 30 Mozilla-pioneered WebAPIs with at least eight new APIs introduced in the last year, including WebNFC and Data Store API. These new APIs build more functionality and features into the Web for app development.

Samsung added the Vibration API and Battery Status API to WebKit, while tools like Apache Cordova and Adobe’s PhoneGap now integrate six of the most popular WebAPIs into their products.

Mozilla recently introduced a tablet contribution program aimed at accelerating the build of Firefox OS for tablets and its supporting ecosystem, with Foxconn as the first hardware partner.

As part of the Firefox OS tablet contribution program, VIA is offering a 7″ Vixen reference tablet for developers around the world to help the Mozilla community complete the build of Firefox OS for tablets. Developers can now apply to be a part of this program from this Mozilla Hacks post.

“It’s clear that more and more developers are choosing the Web as their preferred development platform for mobile apps, as the technical gap between native and Web apps narrows,” said Brendan Eich, Mozilla CTO and SVP Engineering.

“We listen to what developers are asking for to make the Web their primary development platform and think Mozilla and its partners have made significant progress with these new hardware, tools, and WebAPIs. It’ll be exciting to see what new mobile innovations come in 2014.”

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