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Firefox Cellphones Handhelds Mozilla Open Source Operating Systems News Technology

Firefox OS: Disruptive By Aiming Low 286

Posted by timothy
from the picture-worth-1k-words dept.
judgecorp writes "As Apple launches a new slightly-improved iPhone 5, Mozilla CTO Brendan Eich says if you want a really disruptive phone you should look to Firefox OS. It's a low-cost low-end device — and that's the point. It uses standards so should be resistant to patent infringement suits, it will fit on featurephone-grade hardware, and it will run HTML5 apps without the restriction of native apps in an app store. In other words, it's aiming for the next 2 billion smartphone users, people who can't afford the iPhone/Android model." Reader rawkes has some (very warm) thoughts about Firefox OS, too, which helpfully includes both screenshots and a video demo.
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Firefox OS: Disruptive By Aiming Low

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  • I read the title... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 14, 2012 @08:08PM (#41342015)

    And thought: "What a load of crap." then I read TFA and the other thing and I was like: "Oh wow, this is not a bad idea at all." and then I thought: "Could have done with this earlier, though."

  • by SeaFox (739806) on Friday September 14, 2012 @08:51PM (#41342397)

    It uses standards so should be resistant to patent infringement suits,

    You'll be surprised what's patentable lately. And whether something is a standard or not has little to do with it.

    it will fit on featurephone-grade hardware,

    Running and running well are two different things. I'm skeptical until handsets are actually in the wild.

    and it will run HTML5 apps without the restriction of native apps in an app store.

    This is how "apps" were done on the original iPhone. There were Apple's apps, and there were 3rd party AJAX applets that generally ran from within Safari. And people complained because the quality of the user experience was hobbled by them not being native apps. The restrictions have nothing to do with whether they're native apps or HTML5 doohickeys. You can make native apps and not have an app store at all. Just let people load them to their phone direct from web downloads anywhere on the web or uploaded from flash memory card or USB sticks, kinda like how actual PCs work (for now).

    In other words, it's aiming for the next 2 billion smartphone users, people who can't afford the iPhone/Android model.

    Considering the iPhone 4 can be had for free now plus the iPhone has been available on prepaid for years, you could buy an older does-not-support the latest iOS iPhone pretty cheap now unlocked on Craigslist and avoid even the required Data Plan stupidity. If you can't afford one now you probably have things you should be focusing your money on instead (like food).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 14, 2012 @08:54PM (#41342429)

    I think you're missing the low-end concept here.

    you can get one for free

    You can be forgiven for thinking that $30-60 dollars a month is no big deal. For some people it's completely untenable. They are actual, literate human beings with rights and stuff. They don't have 'plans.'

    buy last years model

    Last years model isn't all that cheap, especially if it's unlocked. An unlocked Nexus S from 2010 is $340+, for example.

    Today you can get a new, unlocked low power Android phone from LG for about $100. A year from now a new phone with the same power will probably be $75. An unlocked smart phone for the price two month's 'plan' cost. You can get GSM for $0.10 and Skype minutes for $0.019. A full function unlocked smart phone for cheap. Real cheap.

    That's what we're talking about. So cheap it's almost disposable. And no 'plan.'

    Android does run on those low end phones. The runtime overhead doesn't help, however. There is a place for a really efficient smart phone OS and Firefox OS is aiming right for it.

    smart phone data charge

    Lack of data does not preclude smart phones. For some people the smart phone is the only web capable device they own. Those people will know exactly where to find several reliable wifi hotspots within a walk or short drive.

    People who spend time with seasonal workers get all this. Please try to allow for your own ignorance; there are a lot of other people on this planet.

  • Not that Disruptive (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fm6 (162816) on Friday September 14, 2012 @09:01PM (#41342487) Homepage Journal

    To be disruptive, a device has to attract developers and users. This one hasn't even got a hardware vendor. In any case, the constant screwups with Firefox and Thunderbird make me very skeptical that Mozilla can disrupt a church picnic, never mind find a place in an extremely competitive mobile device market.

  • I'm betting on HTML5 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Art3x (973401) on Friday September 14, 2012 @09:37PM (#41342717)

    Let the reader be warned that the two articles linked to from the summary are a gushing review by a Mozilla employee and an interview with the Mozilla CTO.

    Even so, how many operating systems announced lately are saying that their API is basically HTML, CSS, or JavaScript? Google Chrome OS, Tizen, node.js, Blackberry 10 (sort of at least?), Windows 8 Metro, and now Firefox OS.

    DISCLAIMER: I am a web programmer. (And right now, I'm happy to be one.)

    Standard response to the myriad complaints about having to use JavaScript: JavaScript, as a language, is nice. Its history is tainted by incomplete browser implementations, namely Microsoft's. Also, its low level of entry flooded the web with really bad examples. If you really want to learn JavaScript, read JavaScript: The Definitive Guide or JavaScript: The Good Parts.

  • Less is more (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Art3x (973401) on Friday September 14, 2012 @09:41PM (#41342753)
    It sounds like they agree with Jason Fried, who cowrote the book Getting Real, which you can read free online. To wit, this chapter: Build Less [37signals.com].
  • Re:What a concept! (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 14, 2012 @10:12PM (#41342979)

    Read the reviews on that $49 Walmart tablet. This is what Firefox OS is trying to do away with. I develop games in HTML5, and even some of the better Android phones out there are still garbage in running them.

  • by NoMaster (142776) on Friday September 14, 2012 @10:56PM (#41343237) Homepage Journal

    Because there's at least 2 1/2 billion of them, and only 300 million Americans?

    One day soon, your country is going to get its economic arse kicked by poor brown people...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 14, 2012 @11:29PM (#41343393)

    My favourite is the people on /. who still, consistently, claim the RPi is a giant waste of money and that people should just buy old used x86 machines from a dump. It's even more amusing when these people claim such a plan is suitable for stocking a /computer lab/.

    I gave up a long time ago reading the comments here to try and get any sort of useful insight, as most of them are people ranting over and over again about how the glory days of the 90s should live on forever, and how anything else is just not worth bothering with.

    Possibly a more contextual example to this story is the comparisons to WebOS and the original iPhone's software stack, and how HTML5 apps were a giant disaster on those platforms, as well as the people who claim that HTML isn't a platform and never will be. Well, aside from the fact that people, you know, learn from history's mistakes, turns out there have been major improvements in the last 5 years in computing:

    - Huge optimisations in graphics in general, which is really what 99% of consumers care about in terms of their phone experience
    - Huge optimisations in layout engines and rendering engines for HTML
    - Optimisations in JavaScript runtimes that are now orders of magnitude faster than they were back then, even on the same hardware
    - Huge optimisations in memory management
    - Several new revisions of the OpenGL API for embedded systems
    - SIMD instruction sets for ARM are now widespread

    Whether people here like it or not, turns out the web is already a platform. Is it ideal? No. But it's an accessible platform for any reasonably intelligent person to be able to make something half decent, and it seems that far outweighs any sort of technical superiority for a content delivery platform (which is effectively what the web is). To claim the web is not a platform is just outright denial. Zuckerberg has about 900 million reasons why those people are wrong.

  • Re:What a concept! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Saturday September 15, 2012 @02:20AM (#41344169) Journal

    Hey don't knock it if you haven't tried it, one of my friends got tired of being assraped on his contract so went and got this $79 Android prepaid [walmart.com] and after he let me play with it for a half an hour?

    Its...really not a bad phone actually. It plays music nicely, surfs just fine, videos looked decent, as decent as one can expect on a screen that small, overall I had to say i would have NO problem using that as my day to day smartphone. Hell he even slapped a 32gb Micro-SD into it and he uses it now as his PMP as well as a smartphone, its really not a bad little unit.

    Which is why I just don't see what market Firefox is going for, I mean what are they gonna put it on? $10 Tracphones? I've used those things as throwaway phones for vacation so I don't have to give a crap about something happening to it and they REALLY suck when it comes to the CPU, we are talking seriously weak and laggy. Any FF put on something THAT weak is gonna be painful and make FF look bad, and as you and I have both seen anything more expensive Android has covered and already has 200,000+ apps for the 2.x line which is what most of these cheapies run.

    Thanks for the tablet link though, I'm gonna have to take a spin over to Wally World and see if they have one in stock. I mean at $50 who cares if you kill it? This looks like a perfect new playtoy.

  • Re:What a concept! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Saturday September 15, 2012 @03:28PM (#41347573) Journal

    I'll be happy to elaborate.

    Firefox is a piggie, not so much in memory as that HAS gotten better but in CPU spiking it royally sucks ass. I have an AMD E350 netbook and I can gain an hour of surfing time by NOT using Firefox, that ought to tell you something. I have a 1.8GHz Sempron in the shop I use as a nettop because it uses less than 40w under load. With Dragon or Chrome? Great web surfing, can even play 720p videos no problem, Firefox? Just launching will slam the CPU to 100% and make the entire machine unresponsive for 40 seconds to a minute and every action you do in Firefox will suck CPU cycles like a drunk at a free bar. Simply going through my bookmarks can hit 80% CPU...really? Just to look at the bookmarks? And Firefox suffers from what I call "senior moments" where the entire system will just hang, sometimes for up to a minute. The chrome variants? Just don't do that.

    Don't take my word for it, take ANY software that lets you have a CPU gauge in the taskbar AnVir Task Manager is a good one but there are a ton to choose from, and then watch the gauge as you do various tasks in both FF and any Chrome variant. You'll find that FF pimp slaps the living hell out of the CPU, I don't care which extensions you have, while Chrome simply don't. In my own little tests I've found anything short of a 3.2GHz P4 with HT is simply unusable on FF 15, its senior moments (which is it slamming the CPU to 100%) simply make the entire experience painful.

    Its a fricking browser, you shouldn't need a high powered multicore just to run the damned thing. If anyone doubts I'll be more than happy to post screencaps, it'll just take a bit as I'll have to blank out my bookmarks, or reinstall without my bookmarks installed.

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